Popular Science Monthly/Volume 10/February 1877/Literary Notices
Elements of Physics, or Natural Philosophy. By Neil Arnott, M.D., LL.D., F.R.S. Seventh edition, edited by Alexander Bain, LL.D., and Alfred Swaine Taylor, M.D., F.R.S. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 873. Price, $3.
We are glad to see this sterling and favorite work brought up to date, as it is in the edition now issued. A generation ago Arnott's "Physics" was the leading text-book on natural philosophy both in England and this country, and we much question if for educational purposes anything equal to it has appeared since. We have physical text-books with finer pictures, but we have gone to an excess in this direction, and greatly overdone the pictorial element. It is an objection to large, elaborate, and profuse illustrations, that they are costly, that they trench upon the text, and often give prominence to trivialities, simply because they afford an opportunity for a showy engraving. The illustrations of a high-grade scientific book should be simple, and severely subordinated to the ideas they exemplify. The cuts in Dr. Arnott's book, while having no merit as mere pictures, are perfectly sufficient for their purpose of illustration.
There is another objection to our recent text-books of physics in the want of balance or proportion in treating of subjects. The rage for the new, and what is called keeping up with the times, has led to undue prominence in representing the last results of science, and to a corresponding neglect of those established facts and principles which have lost their novelty because they are old and well-settled. A book filled with the recent wonders of research may be exciting, and full of interesting information, but these qualities cannot commend it to students whose object is to acquire the body of principles that constitute a science. In this respect, and in physics especially, the value of the old greatly preponderates over that of the new. No doubt such works should be up to date, and represent "the present state of science," but facts discovered a great while ago, and long-determined laws, are quite as much parts of the present state of science as the last results of inquiry. In this respect, also, Arnott's "Elements of Physics" is more harmonious and well-proportioned than many of the later works upon the subject. Its careful editors have brought it up to date by introducing clear accounts of the various advances in physics that have been made during the last twenty years. The modern doctrines of Energy, Correlation of Forces, the Mechanical Theory of Heat, the Kinetic Theory of Gases, Barometric Gradients, Weather Areas, and Storm-signals, Tyndall's and Helmholtz's Acoustical Investigations, Spectrum Analysis, the Radiometer, and many other results of research in recent years, are all introduced in their appropriate places, and briefly and succinctly explained. But they fall into their proper relation as but a small part of the great system of truths that must now be comprised in any standard treatise upon the science of physics. The editors, we observe, have caught the spirit of the work, and assimilated the new matter to the method of exposition adopted by the author.
And it is in this that the unrivaled merit of Dr. Arnott's work chiefly consists. The style in which it is written, as is well known, is a model of easy simplicity. It is the most readable book on natural philosophy that we have in the language. Another admirable feature is the copiousness and diversity of its illustrations and concrete applications of physical principles. These are mainly drawn from the familiar field of every-day life, and, notwithstanding the numerous books that have appeared on common things, familiar science, etc., Arnott's "Physics," is still our best book of this kind. He has been much copied, but his statements have not been improved upon. The new edition of this work may therefore be strongly recommended to schools as a text-book, a reference-book, or a reading-book, and, however used, it will be pretty sure to do good service.
Modern Physical Fatalism, and the Doctrine of Evolution, including an Examination of Mr. Herbert Spencer's "First Principles." By Thomas Rawson Birks, M. A., Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy, Cambridge. New York: Macmillan & Co. Pp. 311. Price, $2.25.
We have here another attempt to demolish Herbert Spencer, and it is noteworthy chiefly as emanating from a dignitary of the University of Cambridge. Those in quest of objections to Spencer's system, and not very particular about their quality, will find in this volume a great deal of material adapted to their purpose. But as a polemic it is by no means equal in subtilty, force, or originality, to various replies to Spencer that have previously appeared. In our judgment, it is quite inferior in logical acuteness to Prof. Bascom's criticism in the Bibliotheca Sacra of last October, while in candor, courtesy, and philosophic liberality, the English author is not for a moment to be compared to the American reviewer. The book is dominated by an intense theological bias, and is written from the standpoint and in the interest of the most unmodified type of orthodoxy. The author writes in behalf of such vast interests that he cannot be trusted. Absorbed in the interests of the eternal world, he is lax and careless about the things of this world—does not represent them as they are. In the first chapter, and on the very first page, he says that in Spencer's system of thought "science is identified with physics," and that this is the way he reconciles religion and. science. This, of course, is absolutely false, and not only so, but it is a misrepresentation so fundamental as to taint the work through and through. A writer who would commit so flagrant a misrepresentation at the threshold of his work forfeits at once his claim to the confidence of intelligent readers, who will see that a discussion so vitiated and loosely carried on is not worth pursuing.
Dr. Birks makes wholesale objections to the doctrines of the Unknowable, the Relativity of Knowledge, the Indestructibility of Matter, the Conservation of Force, Evolution and Natural Selection, and closes his book by saying: "The doctrine of the Unknowable is a lower depth in the scale of intellectual and spiritual darkness than the old Athenian idolatry. The Persistence of Force, and the Indestructibility of Motion, when set up to replace the true and living God of the Bible, the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, will be found on inquiry to be still meaner and more worthless than the old heathen idols of wood and stone. One sentence of the Word of God, in the song of the heavenly elders, lays the foundation of a philosophy nobler and deeper than all the human counterfeits of these latter days."
Winds of Doctrine: being an Examination of the Modern Theories of Automatism and Evolution. By Charles Elam, M. D. London: Smith, Elder & Co. Pp. 163.
This is a work of a similar stripe to that just noticed. The contents of the volume first appeared in the Contemporary Review, in three articles, and coming from a medical man, the presumption should be that it is a scientific discussion, but it is rather a piece of violent rhetorical denunciation. The author contributes nothing to the scientific illumination of the subject, and takes his cue from some of the outgivings of Prof. Mivart in his recent criticisms of Darwinism. But while Mr. Mivart, like most of the eminent biologists of the time, admits evolution as a great historic fact of Nature, however deficient may as yet be its explanation, Dr. Elam scouts it in every form and degree as a pure figment of the imagination, and an idle absurdity. His virtual position is, that the naturalists are under an hallucination, and that Darwin, Huxley, Tyndall, and Spencer especially, to whom he gives his main attention, are little better than fools so far as this subject is concerned. Like Prof. Birks, Dr. Elam writes in the interest of popular traditions and for miscellaneous readers, and has no scruple about his course so he can make out a specious case. He quotes Huxley copiously, but prefers to use his cautious statements, made twelve or fifteen years ago, rather than his later utterances which represent the progress that has been made within that time. With equal unfairness he goes back to Spencer's "Social Statics," published twenty-six years ago, and quotes opinions which Mr. Spencer has stated that he now holds only with important qualifications, instead of judging him by the work upon the same general subject that he is now elaborating.
The spirit here evinced is that of the advocate and partisan, rather than of the candid and earnest inquirer after truth.
There are difficulties with evolution, many, and various, and formidable; and none better understand this, or more freely acknowledge it, than those who have studied the subject most profoundly. There are not only inherent difficulties in the discussion from imperfect knowledge, but there are extrinsic difficulties in bringing before the general mind the nature and force of its proofs, and from its conflict with long-established and widely-cherished beliefs. It is therefore a perfectly easy thing to make objections to the doctrine which many will think annihilating. It is an easy thing to accumulate and ring rhetorical changes on old objections, and with a little license of misrepresentation, and a fresh battery of depreciatory adjectives, to make out a killing case in the estimation of those whose minds are made up beforehand, and who know little of the real issues of the subject. If, on any plain and simple question, arising out of an open transaction between two neighbors who have become involved in law, the hireling attorneys can so confuse and confound all common-sense that a jury is as likely to give a wrong verdict as a right one, what may we not expect when a great, complex, wide-reaching, and newly presented scientific question becomes a matter of controversy before ill-instructed people, with loud and angry protestations that it involves the very existence of morality, religion, and God? The skillful counselor, who cares only to produce an impression, has obviously a great advantage here.
But while the pert and supercilious critic is carrying all before him, and proving to those who knew it all before that evolution is a baseless fancy, a mere transient gust of wild and absurd speculation, the disciplined, sober-minded, and thoroughly instructed naturalists, guided by the light it affords, are penetrating deeper into the secrets of phenomena, making further discoveries, and rapidly extending the bounds of our knowledge of Nature.
Inventional Geometry. A Series of Problems intended to familiarize the Pupil with Geometrical Conceptions, and to exercise his Inventive Faculty. By William George Spencer. With a Prefatory Note by Herbert Spencer. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 100. Price, 50 cents.
This is a small and a modest book, but a very important one for all who have a concern about the quality and character of education. It is not a book that will work well in our smooth-running educational system—not a machine that can be belted on in some convenient corner of our educational cotton-mills. In the objects it aims to secure, and in the method of attaining them, it is outside of the customary school routine. It is a contribution to the momentous and much-neglected work of self-education to which the school-room, as commonly managed, is not very favorable.
The author of this little work, the late W. G. Spencer, of Derby, England, was a mathematical teacher, and a gentleman of wide cultivation and independent opinions. He had been for many years an instructor, and entertained quite unconventional views on the subject of education. He maintained that, of all that passes under the name, only that is truly education which calls out mental exertion, trains the pupil to the exercise of his own faculties, develops the judgment, and gives the student the ready use and command of his own mind. It is, therefore, necessary constantly to throw the pupil back upon himself, and, while encouraging and guiding him, leave him at the same time to do his own work. For the usual occupations of the school-room, explanatory instruction, loading the memory with the contents of books, and helping the pupil rapidly along by all kinds of facilities and devices, Mr. Spencer had but little respect; and he measured the excellence of the teacher by his faculty and resources for awakening the pupil's interest, keeping him judiciously occupied, and inciting him to use, cultivate, and strengthen his own powers.
In the later years of his teaching, Mr. Spencer was much occupied in giving private instruction in mathematics, and he was therefore brought into constant contact with individual minds, and enabled to study them much more critically than if he had been dealing with classes in the usual way. In these circumstances he devised a course of exercises in elementary geometry for the use of beginners, designed to lay the foundation for mathematical study, and at the same time to cultivate the faculties of invention and construction, which are of the highest importance, and almost totally neglected in the common methods of the schools. As this course of exercises began with the simplest problems, and was skillfully graded so that the pupil could do the whole work himself, there seemed to be no reason why the benefits of the method should not be extended to all who might wish to avail themselves of it, and it was so highly appreciated by those who had used it that the author was at length induced to print it, although he had no such intention at the time of its preparation. The "Inventional Geometry" is now republished, and being a very suitable book for companionship with the "Science Primers," now being issued from time to time, the publishers have thrown it into the same form, and included it among the reprints in this elementary series. But in one respect the "Inventional Geometry" differs from the little books with which it is associated. The Science Primers are highly estimated. They fall in with the stereotyped habits of the class-room, and may be easily learned by heart like history, grammar, or the catechism. This book will, however, enforce a different treatment, and if the object of education be the discipline of the mental faculties through honest effort, and if thorough familiarity with geometrical conceptions be desirable, and the training of the inventive and constructive faculties be valuable and important, the Primer of Geometry will be worth more than all its associates put together. We recommend it to those who are thoughtful and conscientious in educational matters. Any fair-minded boy or girl cf twelve or fourteen years of age can go through it without difficulty, and cannot get through it without gaining the advantages it aims to secure. Those who work their way through it will be certain to know one thing thoroughly, and, as Goethe said to Eckermann, "It is always an advantage to have any clear bit of knowledge."
The author of this book was the father of Herbert Spencer, who testifies from observation and experience to the excellence of the method, as will be seen by the following note to the publishers:
"London, June 3, 1876.
|"Very truly yours,|
The Geographical Distribution of Animals, with a Study of the Relations of Living and Extinct Faunas as elucidating the Past Changes of the Earth's Surface. By Alfred Russell Wallace. Two vols. With Maps and Illustrations. New York: Harper & Brothers. Pp. 1110. Price, $10.
This work has grown out of the recent progress of biological science, and could neither have been produced earlier than it has been, nor probably by any other living author. To those who regard the evolution hypothesis as a piece of mere useless speculation, it may be replied that it is the most powerful stimulus to investigation in the higher science of living things that has yet been known, of which the noble work before us is incontestable proof. The problem of animal distribution is here so conceived and presented as to give it very much the character of a new subject.
Up to this time, a naturalist has only needed to try to learn about the fauna of any country to be made aware of our lack of knowledge in this field. Much has been learned, of course, but the records were fragmentary and scattered, and it was only on the shelves of the best zoological libraries that anything approaching completeness was to be found, so that practically such information has been inaccessible. But with the growing interest in Darwinism there came an appreciation of the value of the study of distribution, and a demand arose which made itself felt. As is always the case, the demand only needed to become urgent to insure a supply. And it was to meet this want, growing daily more pressing, that Mr. Wallace put forth this work—and the task could not have fallen into better hands. His life has been one of preparation for it. As early as 1848 he embarked with Mr. H. W. Bates for the Amazons, and in that region—the richest in animal life and later in the Malay Archipelago, the best years of his life were given to the study of zoölogy. Few of our readers need to be reminded that in those far-away lands he independently worked out the theory of "natural selection." The more difficult work of establishing the validity of the "doctrine of descent" fell into other and, as Mr. Wallace modestly and gracefully says, abler hands; but he has not ceased to work in that field, and has given great aid in searching out relevant facts and showing their bearings. This work is certainly one of the most valuable of these contributions. From the scattered sources he has, with infinite pains, collected the details of that which was known, and, arranging them with a skill and method which leave little to be desired, has put them within the reach of all.
The book sets out with an introductory chapter, showing the inadequacy of the popular notion that the manner in which animals are dispersed over the globe is due to diversities of climate and vegetation. Much as there undoubtedly is to give rise to this belief, a little examination shows that no such off-hand treatment will do. That South Africa has lions and giraffes, and Australia kangaroos and other marsupials, finds no explanation in differences of soil and climate, because no marked differences exist. So, too, the theory fails when we find Europe destitute of raccoons, opossums, and humming-birds, and North America without hedgehogs or true flycatchers, although the conditions of life are in all essentials similar in the two regions.
Assuming the view that each species has had one birthplace, and only one, the second and third chapters discuss the means by which dispersal has been effected, and what bearing the surface-changes of the earth have had on distribution. They are of great interest, and admirable examples of the efficiency of scientific induction when applied by able hands to the solution of perplexing problems.
The principles upon which zoölogical regions should be formed are next considered, and the reasons given which led the author to adopt, with little change, the divisions proposed by Mr. P. L. Sclater in 1857, which maps the globe into six great primary regions, the Palæarctic, Ethiopian, Oriental, Australian, Neotropical, and Nearctic.
Zoölogical classification receives, as of course it should, due consideration. Mr. Wallace attempts no reconciliation of the disputed points of classification, but selects and tabulates for his uses a few of the best known classes. As the title-page indicates, the relation and distribution of extinct faunas have an important place. The recent lectures of Prof. Huxley are too fresh in the minds of our readers for it to be necessary to emphasize the value of the study of fossil forms in connection with the general doctrine of evolution. In the hands of Mr. Wallace its application to the question of distribution is full of suggestion and interest. We may add that, in this connection, due acknowledgment is made of the successful and important labors of American paleontologists.
In Parts IV. and V. are treated, first, the forms of life as seen in the different zoölogical regions, their differences and resemblances being pointed out; with, lastly, a systematic, tabular arrangement of the families of the animals considered, and sketches of their geographical distribution. The value and interest of these volumes are enhanced by a series of twenty plates showing the physical aspect and special zoölogical character of the different sub-regions, and by a set of excellent maps on which are shown the outlines of the regions and sub-regions, the belts of altitude, the forests, pastures, deserts, and snow-lines, together with the contours of the beds of the great oceans as determined by the most recent soundings.
Further Notes on "Inclusions" in Gems, etc. By Isaac Lea. Philadelphia: Collins.
Continuing a communication made in 1869 to the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences, Dr. Lea, in this pamphlet, gives the results of further examination of the crystals and cavities to be found in gems and minerals. His special researches are illustrated by a plate in which are represented cavities of all shapes, with and without fluid contents, crystals of various shapes and maculations in corundum, sapphire of different shades, zircon, moonstone, emerald, where the cavities contained cubic crystals surrounded by a fluid, and beryl with irregular imperfections. The microscopic study of gems must possess great interest to any one whose opportunities allow it.
Essays on Mind, Matter, Forces, Theology, etc. By Charles E. Townsend. New York: Charles P. Somerby. Pp. 404. Price, $2.
The papers which make up this book originally appeared in the Phrenological Journal and other publications, and embrace discussions on subjects relating to physics, astronomy, biology, social science, religion, etc. "The essays are chiefly intended to uphold the theory of the stability of matter and forces, and the perpetuity of all minds, as material forces, on a new basis of reasoning, in opposition to the many present vague theories of spirit-minds. Also, as opposed to the assumed origin of matter from nothing, and its inevitable extinguishment in time—not mere change of form and action, but utter annihilation being claimed by some." The author vehemently opposes the "debasing, stagnant theology of over eighteen centuries," deprecates the "folly of Biblical cant," and believes that the "Christian religion is an old-times crude theology and false cosmogony, that ought to be replaced by a more rational and ennobling conception and worship of an infinitely intelligent great First Cause, who is known to us through his creations, and thus inferred attributes of infinite goodness, wisdom, and power."
Various theories are presented in regard to different subjects, which are not wonderful so much for their novelty as for the obscure manner in which they are stated. There is an air of ultimate truth assumed throughout the essays, which the conclusions hardly warrant; and the author would probably write a better book if he exercised his dogmatic tendencies less and cultivated a clearer style more.
Report of the Condition of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, on moving into its New Edifice, Southwest Corner of Race and Nineteenth Streets. By W. S. W. Ruschenberger. Philadelphia: Collins, Printer. Pp. 56.
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia dates from the year 1812, and, at the close of that year, consisted of fourteen members, who assembled on the second floor of a house devoted to millinery purposes. Although their progress was slow, yet, in 1817, the publication of their Journal was commenced, and in 1820 they sought more spacious accommodations in a Swedenborgian church. Twenty years later a new building was erected, more space was given to the collections, and an increased number of visitors continued to be attracted. It again outgrew its quarters, and ten years ago a movement was started which resulted in the present edifice. The Academy is now free from debt; it possesses a building constructed with reference to architectural beauty and to the ends for which it was designed, and is apparently in a very flourishing condition. Its cabinets of birds and shells of mollusks are nowhere surpassed in extent and completeness, and in other departments the collections are valuable, though, as yet, comparatively small.
The Structure and Relations of Dinichthys; with Descriptions of Some Other Fossil Fishes. By J. S. Newberry. Columbus: Nevins & Meyers.
Dr. Newberry has reprinted this memoir from Vol. II. of the "Report of the Geological Survey of Ohio," of which we gave a notice last month, and it is accompanied by seven lithographic plates and many woodcut figures. The Dinichthys, to which the body of the pamphlet is devoted, is a huge ganoid fish, occurring along the Lake Erie shore in the Huronian shales, and peculiar among its allies in its massive mandibles and in its dentition, which closely resembles that of living Lepidosiren. Other resemblances between the-m are so close as to warrant the belief that in the Lepidosiren we have a dwarfed representative of the great fishes which populated the Devonian seas. Dr. Newberry discusses minutely the anatomy and relationships, homologically and generally, of these monarchs among ancient fishes, and describes several additional species. The latter half of the book is occupied with descriptions of new fossil fishes' from the carboniferous rocks of Ohio, belonging to various orders and families, all the points of which are elaborated with the close attention characteristic of this distinguished geologist.
In a paper read before the Detroit meeting of the American Association, and now reprinted, Prof. Aug. R. Grote explained the effect of the glacial epoch on the distribution of insects in North America. He endeavors—successfully, we think—to show that arctic forms of insects, the White Mountain butterfly, for example, came southward with the gradual extension of the ice-sheet, and, when the ice-sheet retreated, followed it backward; but some, straying away, or lingering about the local glaciers of high mountain-ranges, gradually followed the declining cold to the high summits, where only could they find a congenial climate. Meanwhile, the surrounding lowlands having become warm, they could not follow their congeners to the arctic zone, but were imprisoned, as it were, on their mountain-tops, and have there remained, undergoing modifications caused by the exigencies of their surroundings. Some such process, Prof. Grote judges, has determined the distribution of most of our Alpine insects.
The Report of the Director of the Central Park Menagerie, Mr. W. A. Conklin, for the past two years, shows that, in spite of the lack of encouragement afforded it by the Park Commissioners, that commendable institution continues prosperous, and is visited by increasing crowds of spectators—among others whole schools, with their teachers, attesting its educational value. The appropriations for it allow of little more than the care of the inmates, but many animals are received on deposit from their owners, and births are constantly ocurring. The mortality is low, and becoming less so, owing to improved arrangements and more commodious quarters. The Report contains the usual details of expense and management, and a long list of accessions, which might be of use to visitors in lieu of a guide to the menagerie.
The Textile Colourist: A Monthly Journal of Bleaching, Printing, Dyeing, and Finishing Textile Fabrics, and the Manufacture and Application of Colouring Matters. Edited by Charles O'Neill; F.C.S. Price, $12 per annum.
"The Textile Colourist" was designed by its present editor to bring before the dyers and printers of the different countries such matter as will be of a permanently interesting character to all in the trade. There are embodied in it the results of the most recent investigations and discoveries, arranged in such a manner as to make it a valuable work of reference.
Tolhausen's Technological Dictionary, French, German, and English. 3 vols., 900 pages each. New York: H. Holt & Co. Price, $3.50 per vol.
The Electric Bath. By George M. Schweig, M.D. Pp. 134. New York: Putnam's Sons. Price, $1.
Improvements of the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers. By G. K. Warren, Brevet Major-General. Pp. 114, with Plates.
Qualitative Chemical Analysis. By Douglas and Prescott. Pp. 254. New York: Van Nostrand. Price, $3.50.
Geological Survey of the Territories. Vol. X. F. V. Hayden, Geologist in Charge. Pp. 607, with plates. Washington: Government Printing-Office.
Department of Agriculture. Report of 1875. Pp. 536, with plates. Washington: Government Printing-Office.
Calendar of the Tokio Imperial University (1876). Pp. 165.
Preventing the Extension of Syphilis. By J. R. Black, M.D. Newark, Ohio. Pp. 7.
Memorial of Increase A. Lapham. By C. Mann. Pp. 21.
Topographical Surveys and the Public Health. By J. T. Gardner. Pp. 10. Albany: Argus print.
Needs of the South educationally. By A. Hogg, M. A. Pp. 24. Salem, Ohio: W. D. Henkle print.
Quarterly Journal of Inebriety. Vol. I., No. 1. Pp. 64. Hartford: Case, Lockwood & Brainard.
History of Spontaneous Generation. By E. S. Dunster, M.D. Pp. 30. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Courier print.
Reason and Progress. By J. T. Stewart, M.D. Pp. 18. Peoria, Illinois: Transcript print.
Treatment of Eczema. By R. W. Taylor, M.D. Pp. 37. New York: Putnam's Sons.
Hydroadipsia. Pp. 9. Also, The Fever Process in Human Bodies. Pp. 7. By Z. C. McElroy, M.D. Zanesville, Ohio.
Disinfection in Yellow Fever. By C. B. White, M.D. Pp. 16. New Orleans: J. W. Madden print.
Rocky Mountain Locust. Pp. 58. St. Louis: R. P. Studley Company print.
Specialism in Medicine. By E. D. Foree, M.D. Pp. 10. Indianapolis: Journal print.