Popular Science Monthly/Volume 11/October 1877/Popular Miscellany

POPULAR MISCELLANY.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science met at Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday, August 29th, Prof. Simon Newcomb presiding. The sessions continued for four days. Prof. O. C. Marsh, of Tale College, was elected President of the Association for the present year; Prof. R. H. Thurston, of the Stevens Technological Institute, Hoboken, Vice-President of the Physical Section; Prof. Augustus R. Grote, Vice-President of the Section of Natural History; Prof. H. Carrington Bolton, of Columbia College, New York, General Secretary; Prof. Francis E. Nipher, St. Louis University, Secretary of Section A; George Little, Atlanta, Georgia, Secretary of Section B; William S. Vaux, Philadelphia, Treasurer; chairman of Chemical Sub-section, Prof. P. W. Clarke, of the University of Cincinnati. The Association will meet next year in St. Louis, on the third Wednesday of August. The address of Prof. O. C. Marsh, as Vice-President of Section B, at the Nashville meeting, on the "Introduction and Succession of Vertebrate Life in America," was a paper of extraordinary interest, embodying the results of its author's fruitful researches into the paleontology of this continent. Prof. Grote advocated the creation of an International Scientific Service, or organization for the advancement of knowledge. We shall in future numbers of the Monthly publish abstracts of some of the more interesting papers read at this meeting of the Association.

 

The Cinchona Alkaloids.—Of all the species of cinchona-trees planted in the Nilgiri Hills district of India, the red-bark, or C. succirubra, has succeeded best; indeed, none of the other species appear to thrive in the Nilgiri plantations, and they are rapidly giving way before the red-bark cinchona-tree. The bark of the latter contains only a small proportion of the alkaloid quinine as compared with the other three principal alkaloids—cinchonine, cinchonidine, and quinidine—and hence the promise of an abundant supply of the first-named alkaloid from the Indian plantations is not fulfilled. Hence, if the febrifuge properties of the cinchona were confined to the alkaloid quinine, we should have to pronounce these plantations a failure. But it appears to be still an open question whether quinine is entitled to this preëminence. Indeed, there is good reason for believing that the kind of bark which earned for the cinchona-tree its reputation had for its predominant alkaloid cinchonidine. Within a few years, medical commissions have been appointed in Madras and Bombay to determine the respective values of the four alkaloids as febrifuges. The result arrived at by the Madras commission, as stated by Dr. B. H. Paul, in a paper read before the London Society of Arts, was to the effect that, "in recent cases of uncomplicated paroxysmal fever, there did not seem to be any great superiority of one cinchona alkaloid over another." The numerical results on which the commission founded its conclusions were as follows:

Cured.
Treated by cinchonine 410 400
" " cinchonidine 359 346
" " quinidine 376 365

In subsequent trials these alkaloids were compared with quinine, and the total number of cases treated was 2,472, and of these 2,445 were cured. The ratio of failure per 1,000 cases was as follows:

Quinine 7.092
Quinidine 6.024
Cinchonidine 9.925
Cinchonine 23.255

Which appears to show that the first three are nearly equal in their febrifuge properties.

 

Treatment of the Opium-Habit.—The English Church Mission supports at Hangchow, China, an "opium-refuge," or hospital for the treatment of smokers of opium. The capacity of this hospital, as we learn from the Journal of Inebriety, is for about thirty patients, and there are generally about as many applications for admission as can be granted. Persons wishing to be admitted make their applications on or before the beginning of a month; all the patients for one month being admitted on the same day, and remaining in the hospital for three weeks. In this way, twelve classes of patients are turned out each year, and there is one week in each month for cleansing the hospital. The treatment is directed simply to relieving the malaise and depression caused by discontinuance of opium, and the physician in charge states that at the end of three weeks the patients can entirely dispense with the drug without physical inconvenience. One strange fact is developed by this benevolent enterprise. Some of the patients enter the refuge without any desire of giving up opium. They have gone so far that a large quantity is required to satisfy their craving—larger than they can afford to buy. By submitting to hospital treatment they can get back to a point where a moderate quantity of the drug will produce the desired effect. "They only wish to get up-hill, that they may have the pleasure of sliding down again!" Even in his dissipations the Chinaman shows his characteristic wariness.

 

Silver-bearing Sandstones.—A correspondent of the Engineering and Mining Journal describes the "silver sandstone" formation occurring in the vicinity of Leeds, a village in the southwestern corner of Utah, about 300 miles from Salt Lake City. The formation is a beautifully-stratified red and white sandstone, but greatly broken up and eroded. Where the strata have been undisturbed, they rise to a height of perhaps 1,000 feet above the valley in table mountains, alternately banded with red and white. The numerous foldings and contortions of the strata are accounted for by the presence of many extinct volcanoes, while the great sandy deserts, covered with sage and cactus, bear abundant evidence of the erosion. On the northern side of what was once a vast basin, lying between several ranges of high mountains of old rock, where the erosion of an anticlinal has left ridges or reefs cropping out at various angles, are the mines. The sandstone consists of red and white deposits, carrying some lime as a cementing material, with occasional layers of clayey or shaly rock, and a considerable amount of carbon scattered throughout. The white sandstone seems so far to have carried the ore, but all the strata carry it in greater or smaller quantity. Careful samplings and analyses show that there is a large amount of ore running from $20 to $50 per ton—in several beds, a foot or more in thickness, averaging from $50 to $200, while others have streaks of various widths, from one to ten inches, yielding ore from $200 to $1,200.

Specimens of so-called "silver-mud" from Oregon have been examined by Mr. Henry G. Hawks, member of the California State Geological Society, who found the substance very rich in silver in the free state, though the microscope failed to give any clew to its origin. It has been suspected that this "silver-mud" is an artificial product, intended to subserve fraudulent designs, but Mr. Hawks could not find any evidence of fraud. If the free silver in the mud were filings, a single glance would suffice to detect the fact. Had the silver been precipitated from solution by copper, it would have been crystallized. An amalgam of silver and mercury would have yielded a sublimate if strongly heated in a glass tube closed at one end. Such amalgam introduced into the wet mud, and the whole heated sufficiently to volatilize the mercury, would have left the substance in a hard-baked state, which could not again have been reduced to the state in which the mud was when it came into the hands of Mr. Hawks. The author finds a close resemblance between this "silver-mud" and the silver-bearing "sandstone," so called, of the preceding paragraph.

 

Anthropology in Germany.—A writer in Das Ausland directs attention to the neglect of anthropological research in the great schools of Germany. The science of anthropology, he remarks, together with all its subordinate branches, such as anatomo-physiological anthropology, ethnology, ethnography, "prehistory," and comparative archæology, were substantially founded by German scholars, as Keller and Virchow, Schaaffhausen and Bär, yet hitherto they have been assigned no official place in higher education. There is not in all Germany a single professorship of anthropology, though that is a subject that interests the entire cultured public. "With us," he writes, "the four antiquated Faculties still profess to represent science in its totality. In France, the case is different. Schaaffhausen, in his account of the Prehistoric Congress of Buda-Pesth, observes that in Paris a professorship of anthropology has been in existence for the last twenty-seven years. Besides, we learn of the recent establishment in Paris of a school of anthropology. This school consists of four sections, of anatomy, biology, ethnology, 'prehistory,' and linguistics, with Broca, Jopenard, Dally, Mortillet, and Hovelacque, for professors. In Germany two scientific men lecture on anthropology, namely, Ecker in Freiburg, and O. Jäger in Stuttgart."

 

Distribution of the Seventeen-Year Locust.—Mr. L. G. Olmstead, of Fort Edward, sends us an account of a recent interview with Dr. Asa Fitch, the distinguished entomologist of Salem, New York, from which we extract the following particulars concerning the habits and geographical distribution of the seventeen-year locust, which has but lately planted the seeds for the crop of 1894:

"The seventeen-year locust, the Cicada septendecim—thus named by Linnæus, the prince of natural historians—has just made its regular visit to the woods north of Clark's mills, below Fort Miller Bridge, on the Hudson River. Fort Miller Bridge is their extreme northern limit. From time immemorial they have appeared on the same spots. If the woods are cleared up, they resort to the nearest orchards. They are found from this locality south along the Hudson, on through New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. They come out in immense numbers, the woods resounding with the din of their notes.

There is an annual Cicada which appears in dog-days, whose shrill note is quite different from the seventeen-year locust. The notes of this last are not unlike those of the tree-toad, and they were heard at Clark's mills above the noise of the machinery.

"They sing when the sun shines. When growing old their note is much more feeble. The males alone sing; the females are silent, and this has given rise to the distich:

'Happy are the Cicadas' lives,

Because they all have voiceless wives.'

"This is their fourth visit that the doctor has observed. He has gathered and confined scores of them, under netting on an apple-bush to keep them from being devoured by birds, which collect to feed on them in immense numbers, as do the swine, and such wild animals as skunks, weasels, etc.

"The locusts puncture the bark of trees and live on the juice. They do not disturb herbaceous plants. They pierce the twigs and deposit two eggs in each puncture, which are probably male and female. The grub hatches and drops to the ground, into which it is said to go to great depths, and is seventeen years in getting its growth. They sometimes come up in the bottom of newly dug cellars, and where roads are made across districts they have occupied, and they work themselves up through the hardest beaten highway. On coming out of the ground they immediately pair, and the female commences boring the twigs and depositing her eggs, which occupies her about three weeks, when they die and disappear. They never do any appreciable injury to the trees. This seventeen-year locust is not found in any other part of the world.

"They left Fort Miller about the 25th of June, leaving an appointment to hold another great concert on the same ground in 1894. The twigs of witch-hazel, poplar, maple, hickory, oak, etc., are beautifully punctured and as regularly as the stitches on a horse's harness, thus—

 
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Sometimes there will be two rows on the under side of the same twig, thus—

 
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Many twigs of the oak have died from the puncturings.

"There is also a third species of locust in this county, of which only a very few appear. The species of Cicada are numerous in warm climates. The doctor has in his collection ninety-two species. He has the three found in this county; others from Pennsylvania, Illinois, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama; the Bahama Islands, Jamaica, Venezuela, Brazil; Colombia, Chili; a number from France, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Algiers, Cape of Good Hope, Senegal, Madagascar; the Crimea, Sylhet (a part of British India), Borneo, Java, Ceylon, Assam, Malacca, and New Holland."

 

Cremation of Dr. Charles F. Winslow.—The following, from a gentleman who took an active part in the cremation of the body of the late Dr. Winslow, at Salt Lake City, on July 31st, contains many interesting details concerning this event not before published:

"Dr. Winslow always had a dread of being buried in the ground; perhaps not a dread, but he had seen many bodies that had suffered the slow decomposition and ravages of the worms, and the thought was disgusting to him. His heart was taken out and embalmed, placed in a jar, and is to be buried within the grave of his mother. As soon as his executor (and personal friend) reached here, it was decided to proceed with the cremation, but, before it was done, his children at the East intervened, and the operation was delayed. One of his sons came here, and, after reading the will and talking with his (the doctor's) friends, to whom the doctor had so often expressed his views in favor of 'cremation,' decided that it ought to be done, and wrote to the other children for their consent, which they finally granted. In the mean time the body had been embalmed, and kept continually packed in ice.

"Dr. Hamilton, who had charge of the 'cremation,' consulted me as to the means of doing it. They had talked of taking the body to one of the reverberatory furnaces, as they wanted it done quickly—in fact, before his children would know of it. I thought a furnace could be built quickly and cheaply that would answer the purpose, and designed one, as per inclosed rough sketch.

"I will admit that many improvements could have been made on it; but, when you consider that in six hours from the time it was commenced a fire was built in it, I think you will say we did well. Time and expense were the obstacles I had to overcome. The interior of the furnace was six feet by two; the bottom was of boiler-iron,

PSM V11 D787 Furnace in which the cremation was performed.png
Furnace in which the Cremation was performed.

three-eighths of an inch thick; the roof of fire-tiles, two feet long and one foot wide. This enabled us to cover without an arch. The door for the admission of the body was at the south end. You will notice two stacks; the extra one was made so that we could shut off the flames by means of a damper, enabling us to put the body in, and also to view the action without the flame approaching the door. You will see that the flame, when the furnace was at work, passed under the floor the whole length, and then returned over the body and up the stack at the south end of the furnace. In the operation we used the coal from 'Rock Springs,' on the Union Pacific Railroad.

"It was intended to 'cremate' immediately on the completion of the furnace, but Dr. Hamilton had doubts as to the working of the furnace; so he placed in it a quarter of beef, and found it to produce the desired result on this in one hour and five minutes; and, while this was going on, word came to stop it all.

"Finally, all was arranged on the 31st of July; the body, then weighing 126 pounds, was placed on a sheet of iron one-eighth of an inch thick, turned up at the sides and end, and introduced into the furnace, which was at a full-red heat, at 6.20 p. m. The dampers were opened, and the flame allowed to pass directly over the body. For some time quite a 'boiling' took place, and lasted until most of the moisture had been driven off; in about an hour nearly all the flesh was consumed and the heat was raised. At the end of two and a half hours all action was at an end, but five minutes more was allowed, when the fires were drawn and air admitted to the furnace. In about half an hour the plate was drawn, and the bones gathered up; they were perfectly white and friable, so much so that they could be easily crushed in the hand. After this we rubbed the bones in an iron mortar, and passed them all through a flour-sieve, making in bulk about one quart, and in weight about four pounds. From the time the body was put into the furnace until the ashes were ready for the urn was four hours and forty minutes.

"From the construction of the furnace we had perfect control over the heat. I did not wish to have it too hot at the time of placing the body in it for fear of an excessive generation of gases, but I believe we would not have gained anything by having the heat any more intense; from my observation I am convinced that the heat required is not so great as generally supposed: the action of the heat on the lime gives it the appearance of being intensely hot, but at the same time I noticed that the end of the plate where the flame turned was barely altered—just scored a little, as if it had approached nearly to the melting point.

"The furnace did not cost $100, and I suppose about 1,000 pounds of coal were consumed."

 

Signs of Advance in Medical Science.—A significant communication has appeared in the English medical journals, namely, a letter to Dr. B. W. Richardson, from George Wyld, M. D., Vice-President of the British Homœopathic Society, in which the latter pleads for a reconciliation between homœopathists and practitioners of the regular school of medicine. Dr. Wyld in effect maintains that the art and science of medicine, as understood by the homœopathists, so called, of England, and by the regular profession, are now the same. Hahnemann, in his famous essay, entitled "The Medicine of Experience," had made no mention of homœopathy, and the doses there recommended were tangible, not infinitesimal. But, as his views were scornfully rejected by the medical profession of the time, Hahnemann, in his turn, became intolerant of the views received by the medical profession, and, "out of spite," as one might say, adopted the doctrine of the efficacy of infinitesimal doses. But everything is now changed, according to Dr. Wyld. "The so-called homœopathists," he writes, "have almost entirely abandoned the use of globules, and have substituted doses in a tangible form. Further, whereas the early homœopathists denounced all auxiliaries in the treatment of disease, it is now the practice to make frequent use of all remedies of a simple kind, such as occasional aperients, anodynes, opiates, anæsthetics, galvanism, hydropathy, Turkish baths, and mineral waters. In short, we define our practice as rational medicine, including the application of the law of contraries, but plus the application of the law of similars." Dr. Wyld adds that the sentiments he expresses are held by a large number of homœopathic practitioners. He believes that were physicians of his school to be admitted to the regular medical societies and to the pages of regular medical journals, it would not be long before all sectarianism in medicine would be at an end. He demands the same liberty of opinion in medicine as in religion or politics, and an amalgamation with the regular profession on equal terms. Dr. Richardson asks his brethren to "accept this intended message of peace and goodwill in the spirit in which it is written and offered."

 

Experiments with Viper-Poison.—In the Zeitschrift für Biologic, Valentin states the results of his researches on viper-poison. The particular species of vipers employed was the V. aspera of Linnæus. Only one viper out of twenty could be made to bite by external irritation. One viper was made insensible under the influence of ether, and Valentin took the opportunity of squeezing out some of the poison on squares of Swedish filtering-paper; he also obtained some of the transparent mucus which had collected on the palate near the apices of the poison-fangs. A fragment of this paper a few millimetres square placed under the skin of the back of a frog generally caused death in from six to twenty hours, the cause of the fatal results, the author thinks, being due to the admixture of some of the yellow, oily secretion of the poison-gland with the saliva. Paper impregnated with the poison retained its activity for six months or more, and enough was obtained from one animal to saturate twenty pieces of filtering-paper presenting twenty to thirty-five square millimetres of surface. It was found that a quantity of the poison not exceeding 0.00037 of a gramme is capable of producing, when inserted beneath the skin of a frog, well-marked and persistent symptoms of poisoning and death in thirteen days; and quantities varying from one-half to one milligramme killed a frog in from eight to twenty hours.