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FRAGMENTS OF SCIENCE.

antiquity; and that I do not see why, for practical purposes and for its influence upon conduct, we need look forward to an inevitable death of our country any more than to that death of the physical universe which, as philosophers tell us, is probable, perhaps inevitable, in some incalculably distant future age. But if death is not the inevitable doom of a state, it is quite certain that states are liable to something which we may without any strained analogy call disease. Looking back over the pages of history we can easily recall instances of states which have had their energies wasted by fierce attacks of fever; states which have suffered from raving madness; states which have overtasked their powers by undertaking labors beyond their strength and have died of overwork; states which have dropped noiselessly out of the ranks, the victims of senile decay. Since, then, there is such a thing as national disease, and since it threatens primarily the happiness and eventually the life of the state, a serious student of history will be ever on the alert to discover the symptoms of disease in the past life of nations, and to trace the manner of its working, in order that he may combat its first manifestations in his own country. In fact, I think we may say that this work, the study of political health and disease, is emphatically the business and the raison d'être of all history."

 

Adam Smith and Astronomy.—Mr. W. T. Lynn calls attention in a recent issue of The Observatory to the fact, not generally known, that Adam Smith, famous through his Wealth of Nations, was something of an amateur astronomer. He wrote a history in his younger days of astronomy up to the time of Newton. It was published in 1795, five years after the author's death. In view of the care which this author took to destroy all his manuscripts which he did not deem worthy of publication, his opinion of this brochure is of interest. The following paragraph occurs in a letter of his to Hume, dated at Edinburgh, April 16, 1773: "As I have left the care of all my literary papers to you, I must tell you that, except those which I carry along with me, there are none worth the publication but a fragment of a great work which contains a history of the astronomical systems that were successively in fashion down to the time of Descartes. Whether that might be published as a fragment of an intended juvenile work, I leave entirely to your judgment, though I begin to suspect myself that there is more refinement than solidity in some parts of it." The full title is The Principles which lead and direct Philosophical Enquiries, illustrated by the History of Astronomy."

 

The New York State Library.—The New York State Library, according to its last annual report, grew in 1897 from 198,700 volumes to 207,934 volumes in the State Library proper, with 33,739 volumes in the traveling and extension libraries, making with the 108,111 duplicates a total of 349,784 volumes. The policy is fairly started of building up one of the strongest education libraries; and the State has the best general law library in the country. Any registered physician in the State may borrow from the medical library without expense except for transportation. The use of the library in the evening has increased fivefold during the past five years. Scholars from a distance are more and more coming to Albany to make investigation; and lawyers and public men after other business is transacted often find the evening use of the library advantageous. Books are more and more sent from the shelf to institutions and scholars in all parts of the State, a thirtyfold gain having been realized in this function since 1889. Besides distribution to clubs and individuals, 19,750 volumes of State publications were sent out through the library last year to permanent depositaries. The preparation of syllabuses as guides to study for university-extension lectures, clubs, and individual students is growing in importance and promises to become one of the recognized departments of the library work. The library school, which is claimed to be the first of its kind in the world, continues to grow in strength and reputation; and it has been necessary to increase its facilities. Its usefulness has been generally recognized by librarians—in other countries as well as this.

 

Advantages of Large Telescopic Glasses.—The principal advantages of a large telescopic object glass—forty inches aperture in