Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/98

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examined his passports. 'There isn't any Cadémie, no Cadémie at all,' blurts out the surly guard; 'all the world's equal. You come along with us!'

To the American scientist, educator or promoter of foreign trade, however, the chief interest in the work lies in the story it tells of the adoption of the system by most of the non-English speaking countries of the world. The common objections of those who have given the subject little thought, objections to nomenclature, to the magnitude of the units, to the difficulty of educating the people, to the error in the meter, objections which have been so thoroughly considered in the century past and in so many countries, and which have proved of so little consequence—these are considered fully and judiciously. It will be unfortunate if some of the societies interested in the progress of the system do not arrange for translating the entire work, both for the enlightenment of those who have given the subject little attention and for the help of those who believe that America can no longer afford to stand out against a system which the great majority of civilized nations are using.


'The Sea-beach at Ebb-tide,' by Augusta Foote Arnold (The Century Co. ), meets a well-defined need for popular accounts of the natural history of the seaside. It describes the animal and plant life found on the beach and rocks between tide marks and washed up after storms. There are chapters on the distribution of animals and plants, on methods of collecting and preservation, on classification and on various peculiarities of certain groups. Then follows an account of the marine algae and marine invertebrates, systematically arranged with the formality of a manual. This portion of the book is abundantly illustrated with photographic reproductions. Some of these are very good. but many are not as clear as could be wished and do not compare favorably with the beautiful book work exhibited in some of the recent popular accounts of flowering plants. That the book is far from being strictly accurate becomes apparent to any one who critically examines the treatment of groups with which he is familiar. Nevertheless the conspicuous forms are in the main sufficiently described and, what is more important, so figured that the tyro will have little difficulty in identifying specimens at hand. There is sure to be much confusion, however, of the more minute types such as the hydroids with the delicate filamentous seaweeds that should be studied with the compound microscope.

The author's attitude towards classification seems strained. The account of every large group is prefaced by a table of the families, genera and species to be considered. These synopses remind one of the outlines found in dictionaries and are very far from the spirit of classification that now dominates natural history. Such arrangements have but small and passing value in the constantly shifting scenes of systematic zoology and botany. Emphasis laid upon classification throws into the background the wealth of interest in the life and habits of organisms which we term their natural history. But a more important criticism is the loose and inaccurate conception of the significance and use of nomenclature. When the author says that specific names are 'occasionally the names of botanists who first described the plants' (p. 29), she shows much ignorance of the methods of systematists. It seems that the spirit of the present-day natural history is rather against collecting, that the best thought is directed to the out-of-doors study of particular groups in some detail rather than to the recognition of a very large number of forms, to the study of their home life with camera and sketch book rather than to