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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/448

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

lakes above the level of the sea, in going from the pole to the equator, rises as the snow-line rises. Alpine lakes are classified as valley lakes and mountain lakes. The former are generally of considerable extent. They occupy the bottoms of the valleys and form a horizontal zone among themselves, bounding the circumference of a former glacial region, where the currents of ice, at the moment of maximum congelation, could exercise their greatest action. The others are generally small and lie at great elevations, in the heart of the mountainous region; but they are also frequently present in numbers at a common height in each chain of mountains, where they indicate the last stage in the retreat of the glaciers. Mountain lakes have only an ephemeral existence, for the amount of detritus which they receive and the depth of their effluents contribute to their speedy disappearance. More than a hundred lakes have gone out in this way in the Tyrol during the last century.

 

Famines and Irrigation in India.—Mr. H. C. Danvers has summarized the histories of fifty-two famines in India, extending over a period of twenty-three hundred or twenty-four hundred years, of which thirty occurred in the historical period, and twenty-two within the present century. The earliest was between 503 and 443 b. c. Then a period of fifteen hundred years follows without a record, though not, doubtless, without famines. The year a. d. 1033 was remarkable for very extensive drought and famine, succeeded by a pestilence. The earliest famine in the Deccan occurred in the year 1200, and lasted twelve years. The distress of 1345 was caused, in part, by excessive taxation, by reason of which "the poor became beggars, the rich became rebels, and the farmers were forced to fly to the woods, and to maintain themselves by rapine. The lands were left uncultivated, and grain consequently became scarce, famine began to desolate whole provinces, and the sufferings of the people obliterated from their minds every idea of government and subjection to authority." The great Doorga Deeree famine of 1396 arose from a total want of seasonable rain, and lasted twelve years. In the famine of 1811, the Government sanctioned disbursements on account of ceremonies for rain to be performed in the principal pagodas in Cuddapah. In Kattywar, men sold their children for food, and many respectable and well-to-do persons poisoned themselves to secure release from the pangs of hunger; and others died from want of that grain which their riches could not purchase. The great famine in southern India, of 1876-'78, was the worst which has been experienced since the beginning of the century. It is estimated that five and a half millions more, out of one hundred and ninety million people, perished than would have died had the seasons been ordinarily healthy. Mr. Danvers anticipates great results in mitigating the evils of famine from the extension of the railroads, by means of which provisions can be speedily taken into regions of scarcity, and prices kept down. In the discussion in the Society of Arts upon Mr. Danvers's paper. General Rundal laid great stress on the economical advantages of systems of irrigation. The total sum expended on irrigation works throughout India was £24,500,000, while the total loss which the Government had sustained in successive famines was given as £23,500,000. The irrigation works returned more than five per cent net, but the sum hopelessly spent in trying to mitigate famine returned nothing, and ten million lives had been lost during the century. The Godavery works, after thirty-five years, had netted £1,400,000, or double the whole capital outlay; the Kistna works, after twenty-five years, had netted £281,000, which was, perhaps, half what they had actually cost. These two works irrigated 563,700 acres and 303,000 acres respectively. The Tanjore works were still more remunerative. Other works had not given so large visible returns; but they could not be called failures, because they provided security against future famines, and were otherwise economically beneficial.

 

Identification by Thumb-Marks.—Among other anthropometrical data, Mr. Francis Galton has secured the impressions in printer's ink of the two thumbs of many hundred persons, in order to determine the possibility of using that method in identification. He says that a minute investigation of thumb or finger marks shows an extraordinary difference in small though perfectly