Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 51.djvu/297

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FRAGMENTS OF SCIENCE.

man, living in the clear light of history, whose acts were chronicled at the time by respectable historians. Nevertheless, so transcendent was his genius, so marvelous were his deeds, that almost immediately after his death—probably, indeed, during his life—popular imagination lays hold of him, adds adventures, miracles, words of wisdom, wonders of all sorts, and so trans forms him into a colossal mythical figure, which looms through the mists of fable, as fantastic as Jack the Giant Killer. The diffusion of the Alexander stories is probably the widest ever attained by any heroic legend. "There are versions of them stretching through all the middle ages in time, and reaching in space from the Malay Peninsula to Ireland; and, as every nation has desired a popular or home edition, we can even yet find either complete or partial texts in at least wenty-three languages." Dr. Budge describes the process of amplification of the myth as starting with the distortion and enlargement of the first tolerably accurate description, and going on till, "when the hero has become a mere memory, his name will be made in each country that adopts the story a peg on which to hang legends and myths."


MINOR PARAGRAPHS.

A bow and arrows taken from an Egyptian tomb of the twenty-sixth dynasty and exhibited to the London Anthropological Institute differ in a very marked manner from the native Egyptian bows, and are believed to be of Assyrian origin. The differences are very evident when a comparison is made with the typical Egyptian archer's equipment which was found in the same tomb. The bow is elaborately built up of several materials, and is therefore to be classed with the "composite bows," being allied to the modern Asiatic bows comprised under this term. The materials of which it is composed are wood (two kinds), dense black horn, sinews of animals, birch bark, and glue. The birch bark, which completely enveloped the bow in a continuous sheath, would of itself proclaim the implement to be a foreign and northern introduction into Egypt, and the whole character of the weapon bears out this supposition.

It is related in the Life of Brian Houghton Hodgson, the first great collector of Buddhist manuscripts, that while seeking for books in Nepaul he was surprised at the wide diffusion of literature among the masses. He attributed it to the knowledge of printing which the Tibetans had derived, probably, from China. "But the universal use they make of it," he said, "is a merit of their own. The poorest fellow who visits this valley is seldom without his religious tract, and from every part of his dress dangle charms made up in slight cases, whose interior exhibits the neatest workmanship." The universal use of writing, as shown by the abundance of manuscripts, was hardly less noticeable than the wide diffusion of printed books. The writing of many of these ancient manuscripts exhibits fine specimens of very graceful penmanship; and they owe their preservation, the author of the memoir says, to having been guarded in their wrappings of silks as sacred heirlooms.

The well-known germicidal qualities of oxygen have led to its recent application in the treatment of surgical wounds. Examinations of the bacteriological conditions of affected parts before and after treatment, says Mr. George Stoker in a recent British Medical Journal, show that oxygen has a selective action in reference to microorganisms. Whatever may be the connection between the organisms and the state of a wound or sore, it seems to be established that when in a wound treated by oxygen healing is arrested or retarded, there is always a corresponding decrease of favorable and increase of unfavorable micro organisms. If the strength of the oxygen bath be increased when this condition arises, the character of the micro-organisms from the wound is entirely reversed. A long and varied experience of the oxygen treatment has led Mr. Stoker to conclude that the method heals in less time than any other form of treatment, allays pain, stops foul discharges, forms a healthy new skin, and is far more economical than any other form of treatment, both as regards suffering and money.

The scientific merits of archæology were well set forth in an address made by Mr. W. M. Flinders Petrie at the recent annual