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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/591

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problem of the past distribution of land and sea. It would probably never afford sufficient data for a complete independent solution of the problem; but it must always be extremely useful as a check upon other methods. Here, however, we are embarrassed by the enormous amount of work which has yet to be accomplished; and, unfortunately, this is not of a kind which can be indefinitely postponed. The old terrestrial order is fast passing away before our eyes. Everywhere the primitive vegetation is disappearing as more and more of the earth's surface is brought into cultivation, or at any rate denuded of its forests. A good deal, however, has been done." Mr. Bentham and Sir Ferdinand Mueller have given a comprehensive flora of Australia, the first large area of the earth's surface of which the vegetation has been completely worked out. Sir Joseph Hooker is busy with the Indo-Malayan flora of the British dominions, and the Dutch botanists have described the Malayan flora proper. British botanists have begun to work the Chinese flora, and the French that of Yunnan. Prof. Bayley Balfour and Dr. Schweinfurth have studied the anomalous flora of Socotra. The flora of Africa has been partly studied, and of this, that of Madagascar is the most interesting. American botanists are still busy with their own flora, and the Russians are continually adding to our knowledge of the flora of Northern and Central Asia. The flora and fauna of Central America have been provided for by the munificence of two English men of science. The flora of Brazil is under slow examination and arrangement in Prof. Urban's "Flora Braziliensis." And the deep-sea exploring expeditions have made known the floras of remote islands.

 

An Enthusiast in Science.—Prof. W. Stanley Jevons wrote to his sister, from Melbourne, Australia, April 9, 1859: "This afternoon I called at the Melbourne Observatory upon the director. Prof. Neumayer, a rather new-comer. I was introduced to a little spare German, who received me with a tremendous bow, to which I was obliged to respond with interest. . . . With the greatest enthusiasm he at once commenced a complete round of his observatory, showing and discussing with me every instrument, meteorological, magnetic, and astronomical, of which, at least the two former kinds, he had a numerous and very varied collection, all in active use throughout the twenty-four hours. Then he showed me many of the numerical results, explaining the method of reducing them, and carefully taking my direction and name, that he might post me his published reports, and even promising immediately to set his assistants to work to copy out a few barometer readings which I required, and had made the ostensible purpose of my visit. . . . How delightful it is to meet this enthusiasm for true and highly useful things, when one passes whole years together among those who are enthusiastic and greedy only about gold! One would be willingly snubbed each day of the year by the rich and addle-headed, if only received so well as this by the truly best of their race."

 

Nascent Species of Plants.—Through the discussions of the floras of the western Pacific islands, collected by the Challenger Expedition, we have for the first time been enabled, says the Rev. W. T. Thiselton Dyer, to get some idea how a tropical island was furnished with plants, and to discriminate the littoral clement, due to the action of oceanic currents, from the interior forest, almost wholly due to frugivorous birds. The recent examination of Christmas Island by the English Admiralty has shown the process of flora-making in another stage. The plants collected by Mr. Lister prove to be closely allied to those of Java. But the effect of isolation has begun to tell; and it is said by Prof. Oliver that the plants can not be for the most part exactly matched with their congeners from Java, but yet do not differ sufficiently to be specifically distinguished. "We have here, therefore, it appears to me, a manifest case of nascent species."

 


NOTES.

Prof. Frederick Tuckerman, M. D., of Amherst, has examined two specimens of tape-worm (Tænia saginata) of unusual length, sent him by Dr. John G. Stanton, of New London. The first specimen consisted of a long ribbon and several smaller pieces, measuring together over 7 metres, and comprising 711 joints. The head and the neck-joints were not obtained. The second worm