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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/154

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

"Since the introduction of the water closet, and, I believe, as a direct consequence of it," said Dr. G. V. Poore, at the anniversary meeting of the Sanitary Institute of Great Britain, "we have had four severe epidemics of cholera (a disease not previously known), and enteric or typhoid fever (previously almost or quite unrecognized) has risen to the place of first importance among fevers in this country (England). The evils which have arisen from cesspools and sewers have caused an enormous amount of attention to be devoted to what are known as 'sanitary appliances,' 'sewer constructions,' etc., and so great and so well recognized are the evils of sewers that many of our friends are anxious that we should be compelled by act of Parliament to protect ourselves from the mischief which previous acts of Parliament have produced."

The preliminary steps have been taken for the organization of an Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science on the same lines as the British Association. The first and inaugural meeting is to be held in Sydney in 1888, which will be the centennial year of the foundation of the colony of New South Wales. The Royal Society of New South Wales, already in operation, is pursuing a system of offering medals and money prizes for original researches on scientific subjects, particularly for investigations relating to Australia. Four prizes are offered every year, consisting of the society's medal and £25, to be awarded for as many researches of superior merit.

A grass resembling the Canadian "sweet grass," but of finer texture and fragrance has been discovered growing at Ocean Beach, New Jersey, and is utilized by a family of Indians there for making fancy baskets. It is identified by Dr. Samuel Lockwood with the Herochloa borealis, or "holy grass" of Europe, and as probably the same colony which Dr. Knieskern announced several years ago that he had discovered near Squan Village. As the name "holy" or "sacred" grass would be without significance in this country, and the fragrance of the plant is like that of vanilla. Dr. Lockwood suggests that it be called "vanilla-grass."

Dr. J. W. Stickler, in the "Report of the New Jersey State Board of Health," finds that persons who work in hat-factories are subject to lung-complaints arising from the inhalation of fur-dust. Silk-weaving in dwelling-houses is deleterious, but ought to be a healthy occupation in properly lighted, heated, and ventilated factories, the hackling of flax and jute fills the air with a dust of dirt and minute fibers, leading to paroxysms of coughing, and often to early death; and the spinning process is attended with similar evils. According to Dr. J. P. Davis, the disorders arising from India-rubber manufacturing are chiefly due to the lead compounds used in the work, accompanied with heat and defective ventilation, to the introduction of naphtha, and to mechanical conditions.

Biscuits appear to have been the most ancient form of bread. It is not known how early fermentation was introduced, but it appears certain that cakes made simply of flour and water preceded it. Such cakes, of the Neolithic age, are found in the lake-beds of Switzerland—and these are the oldest surviving specimens of bread. Most of the ancient peoples used biscuits on special occasions, as of war and long voyages. The Greeks called them arton dipuron, or bread exposed twice to the fire. The Romans had their panis nauticus or capta. Our word biscuit—bis, twice, and codus, French cuit, cooked, twice cooked, the same in meaning as the Greek name, is a survival from the original method of preparing the cakes, which is no longer in use.

Professor Emil Du Bois-Reymond, the twentieth anniversary of whose appointment as Secretary of the Academy of Sciences of Berlin is celebrated this year, has had the privilege of introducing a succession of famous representatives of science in speeches which gave proof of his great ability as an author. He is one of the oldest members of the physico-mathematical class of the Academy; the only member of older standing being Chevreul, whose patent antedates Lis seventeen years.

The city of Nancy, in France, on the 21st of July, suffered the strange visitation of a rain cf wood-ants. It was about five o'clock in the afternoon when the "shower" came up, and the insects, both winged and unwinged, fell upon the streets and public places, and on the heads of passers-by, like a snow-squall, for about an hour. Most of the town was literally covered with ants. They are supposed to have been taken up somewhere and brought to the place by the strong gusts which preceded a severe storm that fell upon the city during the night.

Professor Tyndall, expressed a doubt, in his last Royal Institution lecture, as to whether extensive reading and study had not a tendency to hamper original genius; whether doctrines handed down for generations as articles of faith, which it would be heresy to dispute, had not materially cheeked the progress of science.

Pilocarpine is an alkaloid obtained from the leaves of Pilocarpus primatus. It is a viscous substance, giving finely-crystallized salts, and has been applied to various therapeutic uses.