Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/717

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

case that has come under our notice is in a well-written story called A Comedy of Masks, by Ernest Dowson and Arthur Moore. Two friends are sitting out one summer evening, looking over the Thames, and the story goes on: "By this time the young moon had risen, and its cold light shimmered over the misty river." A novelist need not be an astronomer, but he should at least try to draw from Nature, and should not pretend to have seen the young moon rising at the very hour when it was being packed off to bed. Some day, perhaps, a little acquaintance at first hand with the broadest facts of Nature will be thought a requisite for writing a good novel, but the time is not yet. Meantime, if our novelists would try to bear in mind that the young moon, like other young things, goes to bed early—that Nature does not trust it out late at night they might get into the way of seeing it at the right time and in the right place, and not treat us to "cold shimmers" that are only moonshine in the least favorable sense of the term.

Since the foregoing was put in type our attention has been called to a precisely similar blunder in an article entitled Notes from a Marine Biological Laboratory, written by a man of science and a college professor, and printed in the February number of this magazine.

In the light of what has previously been said, the situation, we must confess, is decidedly awkward, and not at all to the credit of our editorial scrutiny. Yet, while freely admitting that the case is far less excusable than the one cited above, we are still inclined to regard it as an even more emphatic admonition that writers, and particularly writers on scientific subjects, are under obligations to know what they are talking about, and should also be able to subordinate their poetical ambitions to the requirements of truth.


The Recrudescence of Leprosy, and its Causation. A Popular Treatise. By William Tebb. London: Swan, Sonnenschein & Co., 1893. Pp. 20-21 to 412.

In the first chapter of this polemic against vaccination the author states that leprosy has greatly increased and is still increasing, and he cites as evidence reports from various countries that the disease is more or less prevalent. We submit that there is no evidence of the increase of anything, disease or other, unless facts are given regarding the number reported each year for a series of years. What social economist would be recognized that stated the population of a country was increasing because he saw more children in the maternity hospitals? What financier would be regarded as authority that said the country was richer because he had so many thousands of dollars deposited in his bank, though he was ignorant of the amount of deposits of fifty years previous?

Let us cite an example. Leprosy is increasing in the United States because Dr. Blanc reported forty-two cases of leprosy in New Orleans in 1889. We have practical personal knowledge regarding leprosy in Louisiana, and it is a statistical fact that leprosy is less prevalent there to-day than it was one hundred years ago, and, whether the hereditary causation is always known or not, the disease only affects those having Creole ancestors. Dr. Allen's and Dr. Morrow's speculations regarding the increase of leprosy in this country are worthless, and are not accepted by the leading dermatologists.

No reference is made to the paper of Hansen, the discoverer of the lepra bacillus, who stated that his investigations among Norwegian lepers that had emigrated to the United States showed that the disease had died out among them.

An elaborate account of the increase of leprosy in India is given; and yet since the publication of this volume the Indian Leprosy Commission has made its report, and, while its figures suggest a decrease rather than an increase in the prevalence of the disease, the commission conservatively prefer to say that the leper population has remained stationary. This lack of the critical faculty in the author