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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/528

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

entertained seriously by scientific men. So eminent a scientist as Lavoisier, after thoroughly investigating a case, decided that it was merely a stone which had been struck by lightning. Falls finally occurred which demonstrated beyond dispute that the missiles came from space, and science recognized the fact that the earth was literally being bombarded, and that human safety was due to the atmospheric armor, scarcely one hundred miles thick, that enveloped the earth. Instances of the destruction of human life from this cause are very rare. Some years ago a meteorite crushed into the home of an Italian peasant, killing the occupant; and cattle have been known to be destroyed by them; but such instances are exceptional. In 1660 a meteorite fell at Milan, on the authority of the Italian physicist Paolo Maria Tezzayo, killing a Franciscan monk. Humboldt is authority for the statement that a monk was struck dead by a meteorite at Crema, September 4, 1511; and in 1674, on the same authority, a meteorite struck a ship at sea and killed two Swedish sailors.

In December, 1795, at Wold Cottage, in Yorkshire, England, a stone weighing fifty pounds dashed through the air with a loud roar, alarming people in the vicinity, and burying itself in the ground not thirty feet from a laborer. This mass, though undoubtedly traveling, when it struck our atmosphere, at a rate of at least thirty miles a second, was checked so completely that it sank but twelve inches into the soft chalk. Great as is the heat generated during the passage of a meteorite through the air, it does not always permeate the entire body. This was well illustrated in the case of the meteorite which fell at Dhurmsala, Kangra, Punjaub, India, in 1860, fragments of which can be seen in the Field Museum in Chicago. Of it Dr. Oliver C. Farington says: "The fragments were so cold as to benumb the fingers of those who collected them. This is perhaps the only instance known in which the cold of space has become perceptible to human senses."

Some of the individual falls during recent years have attracted widespread attention. One of the most remarkable is known as the Great Kansas Meteor. It was evidently of large size, flashing into sight eighty or ninety miles from the earth, on the 20th of June, 1876, over the State of Kansas. To the first observers it appeared to come from the vicinity of the moon, and resembled a small moon or a gigantic fire ball, blazing brightly, and creating terror and amazement among thousands of spectators who witnessed its flight. It passed to the east, disappearing near the horizon in a blaze of light. The entire passage occupied nearly fifty seconds, being visible to the inhabitants of Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.