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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/562

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

The meteorology of to-day is in a state of development similar to that of medicine. Within the recent past, this science too has made wonderful progress, and is rich in promise for the near future. The meteorological predictions prove of great service to the agricultural interests in the United States. The whole system is excellently organized and very extensive; the official publications embrace the "probabilities" and the so-called "weather-maps."

While meteorology is concerned with the rapid changes that take place in the atmosphere, the science of geology is devoted chiefly to the study of the slow changes ever going on in the crust of our globe. If the geological formation of a district be but known in its essential features, a geologist is often able to predict the finding of coal-beds, ore-deposits, etc., basing his prognostication on the occurrence of certain fossils, the order in which the strata are placed, analogous formations in other districts, and so on.

Finally, we must just refer to one class of—shall we say predictions?—that are based on illusions. To cite but one example of this type, Nostradamus predicted that in this year, 1886, the world would come to an end, because Good Friday this year happens on St. George's day, and Easter coincides with St. Mark's day—i. e., the 25th of April, the very latest date on which Easter can happen. At the present time a prophecy of this kind is only commented on as a matter of curiosity, whereas the year 1000, for which the coming-to-an-end of the world had also been predicted, witnessed a general preparation for the event.

 

SKETCH OF OSWALD HEER.

"IN September last," wrote the Marquis Gaston de Saporta, in July, 1884, "Switzerland, and we might say Europe—so universal was the man's fame—lost in Oswald Heer one of the most fertile of naturalists, one of the most devoted to work, the one to whom the still new science of fossil plants is indebted for its greatest progress. Not only in his own country, but far beyond, as far as explorers have been able to penetrate, from Portugal to the depth of Siberia, from Sumatra to Spitzbergen, from Nebraska to Devonshire, in Saxony, in Austria, in Russia, everywhere, in short, where fossil plants have been discovered during the last thirty years, the name of Oswald Heer has been invariably united with the publication of the plants, the determination of their age, and with the definition of all the circumstances that can aid in identifying them and in attaching a meaning to the several wholes of which they originally constituted a part. Paleontology, geography, the laws that preside over the present distribution of plants and their migrations in times anterior to ours, and the delicate considerations which appertain to the filiation of species, to the order of succession of