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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

abode of Father Mersenne, who was the friend of the most learned men in Europe, and was pleased to be the centre of their mutual visits. Messieurs Gassendi, Descartes, Hobbes, Roberval, Pascal (father and son), Blondel, and some others, met at this place. The assemblies were more regularly held at M. de Montmort's, Master of Request in Parliament, and afterward at M. Thevenot's. A few foreign visitors to Paris were present at these meetings.... It is possible that these Paris assemblies have given birth to several academies in the rest of Europe. However, it is certain that the English gentlemen who created the Royal Society had traveled in France, and had visited at Montmort's and Thevenot's. When they were again in England they held meetings at Oxford, and kept on practising the exercises to which they had been accustomed in France. The rule of Cromwell was beneficial to these meetings. These English gentlemen, secretly attached to their legitimate lord, and unwilling to take any part in public affairs, were very glad to find an occupation which would give them an opportunity of living far from London without being suspected by the Protector. The Society remained in this state up to the time when Charles II., having resumed the kingly office, brought it to London, confirmed it by his royal power, and gave it privileges. So Charles II. rewarded the sciences which had lent an easy pretext for keeping the faith toward him."

 

Vitality of Seeds.—Two years ago a few peas, in a very dry and hard state, were found in a sarcophagus containing a mummy, in the course of certain excavations going on in Egypt. The idea was conceived of testing the vitality of these peas, buried as they had been for thousands of years. Three of them were planted, which grew and produced enough to cover, in the year following, a considerable field. Some of the stalks reached a height of more than six feet, and attained a size which was altogether extraordinary, and a strength which rendered them self-supporting. The flowers were white and rose-colored, and of delicious freshness. The pods were grouped on either side of the stalk, in a sort of circular zone toward the top, and not regularly distributed throughout the plant, as in the common pea. It is believed by those who have examined this ancient pea and tested its edible qualities that it belongs to the family of the ordinary pea of our gardens, but that it is a special variety distinguished by the characteristics above mentioned in regard to the form of the stalk and the disposition of the pods.

In corroboration of the fact that seeds will retain their vitality for an indefinite period when embedded deep in the earth, Prof, von Heldreich, of Athens, Greece, states that on the removal of the mass of slag accumulated in working the Laurium silvermines, some fifteen hundred years ago, a quantity of a species of glaucium, or horn-poppy, has made its appearance; and, what is remarkable, it proves to be a new and undescribed species to which the name Glaucium serpieri has been given. Prof. Niven, of the Hull Botanic Garden, England, in further corroboration of the same fact, mentions several instances of extraordinary vitality of seeds, from his own observation, and remarks that, "Doubtless the absence of air, an equable and unvarying condition as regards moisture and temperature, and above all the complete neutralization of the physical influence of the sunlight, constitute the means by which Nature exercises a preservative power in seeds as astounding as it is interesting."

To the above might be added the fact so well known to the farmers of Monmouth County, New Jersey, that the green-sand marl sown upon lands almost sterile "brings in white clover" (Trifolium repens) where it was not known before.

 

Recent Observations of the Planet Venus.—Some eight years ago Prof. C. S. Lyman communicated to the American Journal of Science a brief notice of some observations made on Venus when near her inferior conjunction in 1866. So far as appears, the planet was then for the first time seen as a very delicate luminous ring. An opportunity of repeating these observations presented itself on the occasion of the recent transit, and Prof. Lyman has another communication upon the subject in the same journal. "On Tuesday, December 8th," he writes, "Venus was again in close prox-