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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/153

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141
FRAGMENTS OF SCIENCE.

from severe attacks of gout, and both the Earl of Chatham and Fox were afflicted by it. Horace Walpole was another victim, and, after comically describing himself as wrapped in flannels, like the picture of a Morocco ambassador, he says: "If either my father or mother had had it, I should not dislike it so much. I am herald enough to approve it if descended genealogically, but it is an absolute upstart in me, and, what is more provoking, I had trusted to my great abstinence for keeping me from it; but thus it is." Sydney Smith, when writing to the Countess of Carlisle in his seventy-first year, speaks of his gout, and humorously says: "What a very singular disease it is! It seems as if the stomach fell down into the feet. The smallest deviation from right diet is immediately punished by limping and lameness, and the innocent ankle and blameless instep are tortured for the vices of the nobler organs." The fact that gout occurs among the poor and temperate Faröe islanders, and that it may be generated by a low diet and abstinence carried to extremes, would seem to indicate that it is not always caused by overfeeding. Among some of the literary men and poets who have suffered from gout may be mentioned Fielding, Newton, Linnæus, Milton, Congreve, and Dryden, and of warriors included among its victims Lord Howe, Marshal Saxe, Wallenstein, and Condé. Dr. Cullen was strongly of opinion that all gout must be considered hereditary. Modern science has somewhat qualified this assertion, maintaining that three out of every five cases may be regarded as inherited. It is worthy of note that where there is a predisposition for gout a fit may be induced by the most opposite causes; and whereas Kingsley's "northeast wind" will excite it in some instances, a mathematical problem has been known to produce it in another. It seems incredible that any one should desire gout, and yet it is said that Archbishop Sheldon not only wished for it, but actually offered as much as five thousand dollars to any person who would keep him to it; for he looked upon gout as "the only remedy for the distress in his head." Gout is not confined to any one class, and has afflicted some of the ablest men in all ages, although, strange to say, it is five times more frequent in men than in women.

 

The Unapproachable Antarctic Continent.—Whether it will ever be possible to make a satisfactory exploration of the antarctic continent is a matter of doubt, on which very little if any light is shed by the reports of Mr. Borchgrevink, the latest navigator who has tried to penetrate the region. The defenses of the shores against approach are considerably more formidable than those of the arctic seas, and consist of the "pack," a moving mass of icebergs of enormous size, and floating ice; within this, a rim of compact ice, fringing the greater part of the shore, and extending out often several hundred miles from the land; and the ice barrier of the land itself. Captain Cook did not believe that any man would venture farther toward the pole than he had gone; but in 1823 a Captain Weddell found an unusually extended break in the ice fringe, and reached 74° 15' S., but not the mainland. Yet he found the antarctic islands almost inaccessible, constantly covered with snow, except some perpendicular rocks, and nearly destitute of vegetation. Sir James Ross sailed in sight of the antarctic mountains, a hundred miles away, but was not able to make a landing. Wilkes saw land at several points, but could not pierce the ice barrier. Even if a landing were made, the country does not seem to afford even the poor facilities for exploration which the arctic regions furnish; it has few known animals and no inhabitants, of which arctic travelers are often able to make considerable use.

 

Metallic Iron In Water Purification.—Mr. F. A. Anderson recently delivered an interesting address before the Society of Arts on the purification of water by means of metallic iron. While this method is not a new one, and has been in use in various English towns for some years, Mr. Anderson's paper is worthy of attention as giving a very clear description of the apparatus and methods of the process. He says: "The idea of purifying water by agitating it with metallic iron is due to Sir Frederick Abel. The revolving purifier is a cylindrical vessel, supported horizontally upon hollow trunnions, through one of which the water to be purified enters; after traversing the cylinder it leaves by the other trunnion. The cylinder is caused to rotate about its axis by means