Popular Science Monthly/Volume 12/March 1878/Notes


The Count de Saporta has discovered in the Silurian rocks of Angers the remains of ferns—the first evidence so far found in Europe of the existence of terrestrial vegetation during Silurian times. In the American Silurian formation Prof. Leo Lesquereux had already found fern-remains.

Prof. William Dwight Whitney, of Yale College, has been named a member of the French Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres.

An interesting law case lately came before a London magistrate, namely, the violation by a gas company of the act of Parliament which fixes the maximum of impurity permissible in illuminating gas. The company defendant were sued to recover eight penalties of 50 each for having on eight days supplied gas of less purity than the act allows. The court ordered a warrant to issue for the full amount of penalties claimed.

We have to record the first instance that has come under our notice of a house-owner being arrested and held to account in New York City for neglecting duly to provide against the entrance of poisonous sewer-gases into his tenements. In January, an agent of the Board of Health sued out a warrant against a house-owner who had offended in this way, and the accused was bound over for examination. The Health Board is to be commended for its action in this case, and encouraged to go on with the good work.

Died at Paris, December 20th, Henri Daniel Ruhmkorff, aged about seventy-five years. He was by birth a Hanoverian, but came to Paris at a very early age, and there spent the remainder of his life. He was first a porter in a physical laboratory, where he acquired a taste for electrical experiments. He soon opened a little shop for making physical apparatus. His famous magneto-electric "coil" was produced in 1851; in 1858 he received for it the first prize of 50,000 francs at the French Exhibition of electrical apparatus.

Mr. E. A. Barber, in the American Naturalist, notes a singular rite formerly practised by the Seminoles at the "christening" of their male children. At the age of fourteen the boy was scratched or incised with a sharp flint six times on each arm and leg, the length of the incisions being about a foot. If the lad flinched or cried out, he received an insignificant name; but if he bore the pain manfully, he received a high-sounding title, and was destined to become a great man in the tribe.

The statistics of rainfall at San Francisco for the past twenty-five years or more are contradictory of the theory according to which the amount of rainfall is in direct proportion to the number of spots on the sun. It has been shown by Mr. J. S. Hittell that during the four years from 1865 to 1869 there was at San Francisco a total fall of 118 inches—the greatest quantity ever noted there for an equal period—and yet those four years were "in the minimum portion of the sunspot cycle." The table of annual rainfall given by Mr. Hittell is in fact, as far as it goes, an evidence that there is no periodicity either of maximum or minimum rainfall at San Francisco.

The advantages of crying and groaning in pain are set forth by a French physician, who holds that these modes of expression are Nature's own methods of subduing the keenness of physical suffering. He would have men freely avail themselves of this means of numbing their sensibility during surgical operations. Crying in children should not be repressed, for, according to this authority, such repression may result in very serious consequences, as St. Vitus's dance, epileptic fits, etc.

A baker in Paris having used, for heating his oven, painted wood from old houses which had been torn down in opening a new street, many persons who ate the bread were seized with violent symptoms of lead-poisoning. The heat converted the paint into pulverulent oxide of lead, which adhered to the moist surface of the loaves. The men who brushed these loaves were the first to suffer, and then all who ate the crust experienced with more or less intensity the agonies of "painters' colic." A police regulation has been issued forbidding the use by bakers of wood from old houses.