Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/735

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
717
POPULAR MISCELLANY.

Mrs. Joseph Bryan, who is now president. The first work of the society was to secure the "old Powder Horn," or powder magazine, in Williamsburg, which was built in 1714, and was the object of historical disputes between Governor Lord Dunmore and the Commons, among whom Patrick Henry was prominent. This building was in a state of decay. It has been repaired and restored to its old proportions and appearance. Next the society saved the picturesque home of Martha Washington in Fredericksburg from being carried off to the Chicago Exhibition by purchasing it. It has been made to look, within and without, as much as possible as it did when Martha Washington lived in it. The house is to be used as a museum for colonial and Revolutionary relics. The churchyard at Jamestown, with its ruin and twenty acres of land adjoining it, have been presented to the association by the owner, Edward F. Burney, and will be preserved and kept in order. The restoration of the Old Brick Church (St. Luke's) in Smithfield, Va., which was built in 1632, is contemplated as the next work of the association; and it is negotiating for the possession of the old lighthouse at Cape Henry, which was used for about one hundred years, but was abandoned about fourteen years ago for a new and more modern structure.

Discovery of a "Missing Link."—Dr. D. G. Brinton communicates to Science an account of the discovery in the early Pleistocene strata of Java of three fragments of three skeletons, that introduce us to a new species, a new genus, and a new family of the order of Primates, Pithecanthropus erectus, standing between the apes and man—in other words, apparently supplying the "missing link" which has been so long and so anxiously waited for. The material, Dr. Brinton says, "is sufficient for a close osteological comparison. The cubical capacity of the skull is about two thirds that of the human average. It is distinctly dolicocephalic, about seventy degrees—and its norma verticalis astonishingly like that of the famous Neanderthal skull. The dental apparatus is still of the simian type, but less markedly so than in other apes. The femora are singularly human. They prove beyond doubt that this creature walked constantly on two legs, and when erect was quite equal in height to the average human male. Of the various differences which separate it from the highest apes and the lowest man it may be said that they bring it closer to the latter than to the former. One of the bearings of this discovery is upon the original birthplace of the human race. The author (Eugene Dubois, of the Dutch army) believes that the steps in the immediate genealogy of our species were these: Prothylobates; Anthropopithecus sivalensis; Pithecanthropus erectus; and Homo sapiens. This series takes us to the Indian faunal province and to the southern aspects of the great Himalayan chain, as the region somewhere in which our specific division of the great organic chain first came into being."

The Work of the Naturalist.—With its second number, January 11th, Science gets into good working order, and gives a budget of excellent scientific papers from first hands. Among them is a clear summary of the proceedings of the Baltimore meeting of the American Society of Naturalists during the last Christmas vacation. At this meeting the influence of environment upon the successive steps of development, and as a cause of variation, was discussed with considerable freedom. Prof. Charles S. Minot, of Harvard, spoke on the work of the naturalist in the world, defining his object to be to discover and publish the truth about Nature. First and foremost of the conditions of success is truth. The naturalist's first business is to get at the truth, in the way of which stand as the most prominent obstacles the limitations of his own abilities and the limitations of accessories for carrying on his work. The naturalist must observe, experiment, and reason, and his training must necessarily be along these lines. The great work of the future is to be done by experimenters. Again, the reasoning faculty is one of our weakest points. The naturalist must learn to distinguish carefully between discussion and controversy, and while being led and taught to indulge freely in the former with all the intelligence at his command, he must also be taught to avoid the latter. The naturalist is exposed to many evils like this matter of controversy, which tend to cause him to depart from his proper mission