Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/321

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THE STUDY OF MAN.

sphere, I can only select a few which seem at present to demand special consideration. The annual growth of our knowledge is chiefly in matters of detail which are dull to chronicle, and the past year has not been fertile in discoveries bearing on those great questions which are of popular interest.

On the subject of the antiquity of man there are no fresh discoveries of serious importance to record. My esteemed predecessor at the Leeds meeting two years ago, after reviewing the evidence as to the earliest traces of humanity, concluded his survey with the judgment, "On the whole, therefore, it appears to me that the present verdict as to Tertiary man must be in the form of 'Not proven.'" Subsequent research has not contributed any new facts which lead us to modify that finding. The most remarkable of the recent discoveries under this head is that of the rude implements of the Kentish chalk-plateau described by Prof. Prestwich; but while these are evidently of archaic types, it must be admitted that there is even yet room for difference of opinion as to their exact geological age.

Neither has the past year's record shed new light on the darkness which enshrouds the origin of man. What the future may have in store for us in the way of discovery we can not forecast; at present we have nothing but hypothesis, and we must still wait for further knowledge with the calmness of philosophic expectancy.

I may, however, in this connection refer to the singularly interesting observations of Dr. Louis Robinson on the prehensile power of the hands of children at birth, and to the graphic pictures with which he has illustrated his paper. Dr. Robinson has drawn, from the study of the one end of life, the same conclusion which Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson deduced from the study of his grandfather, that there still survive in the human structure and habit traces of our probably arboreal ancestry.

Turning from these unsolved riddles of the past to the survey of mankind as it appears to us in the present, we are confronted in that wide range of outlook with many problems well-nigh as difficult and obscure.

Mankind, whenever and however it may have originated, appears to us at present as an assemblage of tribes, each not necessarily homogeneous, as their component elements may be derived from diverse genealogical lines of descent. It is much to be regretted that there is not in our literature a more definite nomenclature for these divisions of mankind, and that such words as race, people, nationality, tribe, and type are often used indiscriminately as though they were synonyms.

In the great mass of knowledge with which we deal there are several collateral series of facts, the terminologies of which should