Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/429

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

tions of the Government tend directly to dwarf individual research; geology itself tends to become a purely official science. "We confidently appeal," says Mr. Herbert, "to the best literary and scientific thought of the country to come to our aid and join us in the effort to effect a reform and arrest this pernicious tendency." It is needless to say that "The Popular Science Monthly" most cordially and earnestly indorses this appeal. If we want to preserve our intellectual liberty and encourage individual initiative, we must see to it that we do not establish any scientific pontiffs at Washington. And if in an unguarded moment we have established any such, and given them the means of stretching the arm of authority into every portion of our territory and laying the foundations of the Church of Official Science, the sooner we proceed to recall the powers so dangerously conferred, the better will it be for the commonwealth.



Upland and Meadow. A Poaetquissings Chronicle. By Charles C. Abbott, M.D. New York: Harper & Brothers. Pp. 397.

The readers of the "Monthly" already know much of Dr. Abbott as a naturalist and antiquary; for he has not unfrequently visited our pages, bringing with him contributions, the fruit of his researches among the gravels of the Delaware, and of his rambles along the streams and through the swamps that happen to be near Trenton. An unreflecting reader might think, from the fullness of Dr. Abbott's budgets of Nature-lore, and the variety of interest which they contain, that there must be rare qualities in those particular gravel-beds and swamps, but the thought would not be justified. Presumably they are very much like the gravel-beds and swamps that may be found anywhere else, and the rare quality is in the observer. Dr. Abbott has also rare gifts at description, and the faculty of making his reader conceive the scenes and the curiosities almost as if he were along with his guide and looking at them. These merits of observing power and of description are well exemplified in this volume, which delineates what appear to be about a round year's rambles, with observations of animals and plants, and other objects of scientific interest. Keen observer as Dr. Abbott is, he found those things in the observations and histories of the old men he met that made him sorry that he could see so little, or that he had not lived in times when New Jersey nature was richer; he invariably wished, when he had talked with them, that he had been his own grandfather! Then there were men of his own time who could teach him better than he knew what to see. "To realize what a wealth of animal and vegetable life is ever at hand for him who chooses to study it, let a specialist visit you for a few days. Do not have more than one at a time, or you may be bewildered by their enthusiasm. I have had them come in turn—botanists, conchologists, entomologists, microscopists, and even archæologists. What an array of names to strike terror to the breasts of the timid!—yet they were all human, and talked plain English, and, better than all, were both instructive and amusing." The botanist found a plant not previously known to grow in New Jersey; the conchologist a diminutive bivalve with an enormous name, and microscopic shells whose tongues he had to examine and count their teeth; the entomologist chased insects with the speed of an express train, and caught kinds before unseen; the microscopist dipped up a pint-jar of muddy water, and, examining its contents at leisure, announced new infusoria, novel forms of imperceptible life, and gave to them startling names. So Dr. Abbott, in turn, resolved to be a botanist, a conchologist, a student of insect-life, a microscopist, and an archaeologist. Even in winter, he finds Poaetquissings full of life; birds that are supposed to have gone away to the South chirping around and seemingly not troubled by the cold or by any lack of food; fishes under the ice; witch-hazels and chickweed and whitlow-grass and sassafras and alder and skunk-cabbage and dandelion blooming with the snow all around, and other flowers coming in as February and March advance. As the changing season proceeds, there are more