Popular Science Monthly/Volume 12/December 1877/Notes


We have received from Conrad Meyer & Sons, of Philadelphia, a correction of the statement made by Mr. S. Austen Pierce, in our October number, that Jonas Chickering in 1837 "conceived the bold idea of constructing a [pianoforte] frame entirely of iron." The Messrs. Meyer now cite the official "report" of the jury of the Franklin Institute Exhibition of 1883, which mentions "an iron-framed square piano" exhibited by Conrad Meyer. Other testimony to the same effect is quoted by the Messrs. Meyer, who appear to make out a clear case of priority of invention. Having admitted this correction, we can afford no more space in the columns of the Monthly for the piano-frame controversy.

We have received from Mr. E. Berliner, Washington, a circular, with drawings, giving an account of certain of the author's discoveries and inventions in electricity. These are a contact telephone, an electric-spark telephone, and a method of telephonic transfer.

At New Cumberland, West Virginia, a fountain of natural gas is utilized for manufacturing fire-brick. This, says the American Manufacturer, is the first fire-brick ever burned without wood or coal. Fifty-five thousand bricks are made daily in nine kilns. The gas furthermore supplies fuel for three engines, ten furnaces in the drying-house, and several dwellings—the latter obtaining in this way both light and heat. There remains withal a large surplus of gas, which is unused, except from the top of an escape-pipe, for illuminating the country around.

The Nation is authority for the statement that the office of Director of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris has been offered to Prof. J. E. Hilgard, of the United States Coast Survey.

Died, at Bonn, on September 13th, at the age of eighty-nine years, Jakob Nöggerath, for about fifty years Professor of Mineralogy in the university of that town. The deceased was a most assiduous student of mineralogy and geology, and his contributions to scientific literature were very voluminous.

Mr. Henry Newton, geologist, attached to Jenney's Black Hills Exploring Expedition, died at Deadwood City, August 5th, at the early age of thirty-two years. Mr. Newton was a graduate of the Columbia College School of Mines; later, Assistant Professor of Geology in the same institution; then he joined the Ohio Survey under Prof. Newberry; finally, two years ago, he became geologist of Prof. Jenney's Expedition to the Black Hills.

Mr. R. A. Proctor, in excusing himself for not answering all the letters of inquiry he receives, gives the following account of his multifarious occupations: Seeing through the press three new works and four new editions, preparing two pamphlets, writing one translation of an 800-page book, and preparing four new works; writing articles for English and American magazines; lecturing occasionally; business correspondence with ten publishers; personal concerns; original research.

At a meeting of the Paris Academy of Sciences, a note by L. Laliman was read, in which the author stated that he had discovered an insect which preys on the Phylloxera. This insect, or rather its larva—for M. Laliman had not seen the perfect insect—devours phylloxeras with great avidity, and the author saw as many as ninety-five disappearing in the space of ten minims. The larva was found in the interstices of the leaf-galls, and sometimes in the substance of the galls. M. Laliman thinks he has seen the egg of this insect; it occurs on the underside of the leaf; but he has not seen it hatched. A member of the Academy, M. Balbiani, remarked that the fact observed by Laliman is not altogether new. The larva seen by him belongs to the genus Syrphus, or to some allied genus. The Larvæ of Syrphus all prey on Aphides.

An expedition, with aims similar to those of the "Woodruff Expedition," will sail from Havre, France, on the 15th of June, 1878. This expedition will be absent from France for eleven months. Of this time it is proposed to spend about six months and a half in excursions inland in America, North and South, the Pacific Archipelagos, Australia, Japan, China, British India, etc. The cost of passage is 17,000 francs per head.

Mr. Richard S. Floyd, one of the trustees of the "Lick Trust," on his return to California, after an extended tour of foreign travel, during which he collected all the information he could with regard to the construction of great telescopes, expressed his belief that the best telescope for the Lick Observatory would be a refractor of the largest size. The cost of a suitable instrument, with object-glass of forty inches, would not, he thinks, exceed $150,000. But, in addition to the great refractor, Mr. Floyd would have in the observatory a reflector about four feet in diameter, with both silvered glass and speculum-metal mirrors. This would cost about $20,000.

A service of plate was recently presented in London to Señor Manuel Garcia "in recognition of the great services he has rendered alike to science and humanity by his important discovery of the laryngoscope."

Advices from Australia announce the total and sudden disappearance of a group of guano-islands—the Barker Islands—situate in latitude 14° south, and longitude 125° east, just off the northwest coast of Australia. In April last Mr. Fisher, a capitalist of Tasmania, who had obtained from the government the right of working the guano-deposits, visited their site with three steamships, but found there only a "waste of waters," and had to return empty. The Barker Islands are not mentioned in the "Imperial Gazetteer," nor are they indicated in the atlases.

There was exported from China to Europe, in the year 1875, the enormous amount of about sixty tons of human hair. This hair is ostensibly the product of the sweeping of barber-shops, but there is little doubt that much of it represents "pig-tails" feloniously snipped from their wearers' heads.

The addition of cheese to the army and navy ration, in part substitution for salt meat, is advocated by a writer in the Polytechnic Review. The suggestion is a good one, the advantages of cheese being manifold: it is wholesome, highly nutritious, aids digestion, needs no cooking, and is easily handled and transported.