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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/452

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

M. Charles Richet, editor of the "Revue Scientifique," Paris, is investigating heredity in man, and invites information from correspondents respecting remarkable instances of the transmission of powers.

"Vegetable musk" is made from the seeds of the Hibiscus abelmoschus, a malvaceous plant. The ancient Egyptians used to chew the seeds to stimulate their appetites and make their breath fragrant, and they regarded them as aphrodisiac and astringent. Previous to the French Revolution, when it was the fashion to powder the hair, the seeds, called ambrette, were mixed with starch and kept till the starch had absorbed a suitable proportion of their perfume, when the seeds were removed and the musky-odored starch was put up in packets for sale. Ambrette is now imported in large quantities into Europe, and is used in the preparation of the alkermes of Florence, and to adulterate musk.

"How Sea-Birds dine" is described in "Nature" by a correspondent who caught them in the act off the island of Mull. Observing them collected at a single spot, he steamed toward it, and found that the center of their gathering was a reddish-brown ball, about two feet under the surface, composed of herring-fry, which had been driven into that shape by the divers surrounding the shoal and hemming them in on all sides, "so that the terrified fish huddled together in a vain effort to escape inevitable destruction. The divers work from below and the other sea-birds feed from above; and, as in some cases after the birds had been at work for some time I saw no ball, I suppose not one fish is left to tell the tale." The observation was repeated several times.

Asayama, one of the most noted volcanoes in Japan, is the loftiest mountain in the country which is in a constant state of activity, and is nearest to the capital, and is also situated in a district that is famous for its health resorts. A correspondent who visited it describes the roar on approaching the edge of the crater as not unlike the noise produced by the passage of a railway-train across a bridge under which one is standing. There was no shaking, but loud hissing and bubbling constantly proceeded from numberless vapor-jets in the inner face of the crater-wall. The estimates of the diameter of the opening vary widely. The present crater is apparently the youngest and innermost of three.

The important treatise of Buys Ballot on the distribution of temperature over the earth contains very plain cartographic representations of the variations of temperatures from means of the parallels and the January and July. The least variations in the latter point are on the equator, and the greatest are in northeastern Asia (60°) and north-western America (40°), and in the southern hemisphere, in Australia.

 

OBITUARY NOTES.

Mr. Robert Damar, of Weymouth, England, a well-known naturalist and geologist, died May 4th, in his seventy-fifth year. He was an extensive traveler and assiduous collector. Among the collections he made were a series of fossil fishes from the cretaceous beds of the Lebanon, Syria; the most complete specimen of the extinct Steller's sea-cow, from Behring Island; and a series, called complete, of the fishes of the Caspian Sea. He had lately purchased the zoological collections forming the Godeffroy Museum in Hamburg, and had perhaps the largest collection in England of recent shells. He was the author of a work on the "Geology of Weymouth and the Island of Portland." He was contemplating, at the time of his death, another trip to Siberia, to procure an entire mammoth's skeleton.

Among recent deaths of scientific men in Europe are those of the Finnish botanist. Prof. Sextus Otto Lindberg; and Dr. Hermann Theodor Gayler, Director of the Botanical Gardens at Frankfort.

Warren De La Rue, F.R.S., an eminent English physicist, died April 19th, aged about sixty-three years. He was born in Guernsey and educated in Paris; was interested in photographic observations of solar eclipses and of the transit of Venus in 1874; was associated with Prof. Balfour Stewart and Mr. B. Loweny in the publication of "Researches in Solar Physics"; carried on a series of researches on the electric discharge, the results of which were communicated to the Royal Society and the French Academy; was for two years President of the Royal and for eleven of the Chemical Society, and for three years a member of the Council of the Society of Arts; and was a corresponding member of several foreign scientific societies.

Prof. Franz Cornelius Donders, of the University of Utrecht, a distinguished physiologist and ophthalmologist, died March 24th, in the seventy-first year of his age. lie studied in the Netherlands Military Hospital School and the university, and was a professor at Leyden and afterward at Utrecht. He was the author of many works, among them an inaugural dissertation on "Harmony of Animal Life"; "Dutch Contributions to Anatomical and Physiological Knowledge"; "Metabolism of Tissue as the Source of the Proper Heat of Plants and Animals"; treatises in optics, including his great work on "Anomalies of Refraction and Accommodation"; and technical and special essays. He has been called the first surgeon who approached the subject of lenses as aids to vision in a truly scientific spirit.