Popular Science Monthly/Volume 13/August 1878/Notes


The schooner Eothen, carrying the expedition to search for the relics of Sir John Franklin's party, sailed from New York on Wednesday, June 19th, under the command of Captain Thomas F. Barry, whose discovery of spoons bearing Sir John's crest, in the hands of an Esquimaux tribe, was the occasion of fitting out this expedition. Lieutenant Schwatka, Third U.S. Cavalry, will command the search-party, and will have for guide and interpreter Joseph Eberbing, "Esquimaux Joe" of Polaris fame. The Eothen will touch first at Whale Point, in Hudson Bay, and there recruit a force of Esquimaux to reënforce the search-party; from Whale Point the schooner will proceed to Beach Point, Repulse Bay, one hundred and forty miles north. Thence the search-party will proceed inland by sleds five or six hundred miles to a point in the northern portion of Boothia Felix, where the last survivors of the Erebus and Terror crews are said to have perished, and where, according to the natives, their bodies are buried.

Rediscovery of a lost Sphœria is noticed by the bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. This fungus, the S. barbirostris, was discovered by Dufour in the department of Landes, France, over forty years ago. Since then no specimen has been found until lately, when Mr. J. B. Ellis rediscovered it on some maple-bark at Vineland, New Jersey.

Among some insects sent to Prof. Lockwood, of Freehold, New Jersey, as damaging the wheat, he identified that terrible microscopic hemipteran, the chinch-bug. The specimens came from Morris County. The Hessian fly is unusually troublesome this year in New Jersey.

In a recent lecture before the Natural History Society of Harvard College, Prof. J. D. Whitney asserted that the "Calaveras skull" is undoubtedly of Pliocene age. Chemical analysis had shown it to be a true fossil, its organic matter being almost entirely lost, and the lime phosphate replaced by carbonate. Prof. Whitney had himself chiseled away from the skull the substance of the matrix in which it was imbedded when found in the strata underlying Table Mountain.

The Polytechnic Review mentions the discovery, in South America, of a species of fibrous plant suitable for paper-making. The specific nature of the plant and the locality of its growth are kept secret. It is asserted that a No. 50 thread of the fibre "cannot be broken by the strength of ordinary fingers without snapping." The plant grows wild, and is, when full grown, taller than a man, in some cases even higher than a man on horseback. In the natural state it is of a brown color, but is easily bleached to pure white.

A series of grammars of Indo-Germanic languages is announced as forthcoming from the press of a Leipsic publishing-house. There will be eight grammars in the series—namely, Indian, Iranic, Greek, Italic, German, Irish, Lithuanian, and Slavic. The Indian grammar will be by Prof. W. D. Whitney, of Yale College, and he has gone to Europe to see the work through the press.

Dr. Brown-Séquard has been appointed the successor of Claude Bernard in the professorship of Physiology in the College of France—an eminently well-merited appointment. Dr. Brown-Séquard is a native of Mauritius, born in 1818, soon after that island had been taken from the French and made a British possession. His father, Dr. Edward Brown, was a native of Philadelphia, and his mother a native of Mauritius and of French origin. He is eminent as an investigator of brain and nerve organization.

It has been observed by Pasteur that some bacteria are killed by a temperature of 109° Fahr. This fact he uses to explain the impossibility of inoculating birds with anthrax or carbuncle. But if the temperature of birds be lowered artificially, they would, he inferred, be inoculable, supposing the temperature to be the obstacle. This inference he confirmed by experiment; having kept a fowl for some time in water of 75° Fahr., he succeeded in inoculating it with anthrax.

We have to record the demise of two European astronomers of note—namely, Prof. Wolfers, of Berlin, editor of the "Year Book" of the observatory attached to the university of that place; and Rev. R. Main, F. R. S., director of the Radcliffe Observatory, England. The former died in the seventy-sixth year of his age and the latter in the seventieth.

Magnus Nyrén writes to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences that the great earthquake on the South American coast, in May, 1877, was perceptible at Pulkowa by a tremor of the instrument with which he was observing the passage of a star. He further states that the tremor continued sufficiently long to be satisfactorily verified, and that there was no disturbance in the neighborhood by which it could have been occasioned.

In Natal, South Africa, grass is kept in the moist state for months by being buried in pits, the process being known as "ensilage." A pit is dug in the ground in a dry situation, and filled with fresh-cut grass, which is packed closely down and then covered with a thick layer of soil, to exclude the air. Grass thus stored is apparently unchanged in its nutritive properties; cattle consume it with avidity, and thrive well upon it.

A statue commemorative of Giordano Bruno, the philosopher and martyr of science, will be dedicated at Rome on February 17, 1879. He was burned at the stake in that city on the same day of the year 1600, on the charge of being an "obstinate heretic."