Popular Science Monthly/Volume 14/December 1878/Notes


The American Public Health Association will hold its sixth annual meeting at Richmond, Virginia, beginning on the 19th and ending on the 22d of November. The first days of the session will be devoted to the report and evidence submitted by the Yellow Fever Commission recently named by the Surgeon-General of the Marine Hospital Service.

The project of a railroad across Newfoundland is again being agitated. Such a railroad would have the effect of shortening by one thousand miles the ocean-voyage from this continent to Europe. It is stated in the Polytechnic Review that the Government of Newfoundland has agreed to vote an annual subsidy, and to make a grant of lands in aid of the enterprise. Among the incidental benefits to be derived from such a line of railway may be named the opening up of vast deposits of copper, iron, coal, nickel, lead, and other minerals. Furthermore, it would cut through the great pine and spruce forests of the interior of Newfoundland.

Sir George Nares, who commanded the expedition of the Alert and Discovery to the polar regions, is about to make another scientific voyage to the South Pacific. He will first make soundings in the track of navigation between New Zealand and Feejee, and will then ascertain the positions of the different reefs and islets off the northwestern coast of Australia.

Dr. J. S. Meyer, of Virginia City, Nevada, claims that he has discovered the "lost art," known to the ancient Egyptians, of tempering copper so as to produce an edge which will cut like steel.

The Government in India is introducing agricultural schools. The native methods are wretchedly poor, and little wonder is it that the famines are occasionally dreadful. "The curse of Indian agriculture" is said to be the inveterate custom in many places of using the cattle-manure for fuel. To stop this a law is recommended for the compulsory planting of fuel trees, which also would have a good climatic effect.

A German resident on the island of Java has succeeded in domesticating the native honey-bee (Apis dorsata). The hope is indulged that this Javanese bee may be acclimated in Europe, and, if so, in America. The only value hitherto set upon the insect by the natives has been for its larvæ, which they used for food.

The distinguished geologist and engineer, Sir Richard John Griffith, Bart., died in Dublin, September 22d, aged ninety-four years. In 1854 was completed his "Geological Map of Ireland," for which he received the Wollaston Medal of the London Geological Society. From an early age till 1864 he was connected with the Irish Board of Public Works, and was chairman of the board for the last twelve years of that period.

The editor of the American Builder, in looking over the statistics of education in the United States, observes some facts which strike him as curious, for instance, that while there are 579 colleges, universities, law, medical, and theological schools, there are only 83 schools for the higher mechanical and scientific education, including all schools of design, mining, and engineering. Again, the theological schools are twice as numerous as the engineering, scientific, and mechanical schools. "No wonder," he remarks, "that many trained preachers in this country go hungry to bed, while thousands of enterprising mechanics and artisans are floundering in a sea of ignorance in search of higher scientific attainments."

Prof. Fischer, who was lately found dead in the laboratory of the Prague Gymnasium, was the victim of a theory. Having mixed sal-ammoniac with cyanide of potassium, he bade his attendant to note how "science has advanced so far as even to be able to render harmless so dangerous an agent as cyanide of potassium." With that he tasted the mixture, and was quickly seized with violent pains, and expired before a physician could arrive.

A striking illustration of the value of the electric light at sea was given during the homeward voyage of the telegraph steamer Faraday from New York to London last August. About 10.30 p. m., July l8th, in the vicinity of George's Bank, in a dense fog, with a fresh westerly wind, suddenly was heard the sound of a bell ringing furiously but a short distance ahead. The steamer's engines were immediately stopped, and the captain, supposing it to be a fisherman at anchor or almost stationary, ordered the wheel to be ported; at the same moment the electric light of the Faraday pierced the fog, and plainly showed a ship crossing her bows. Not a moment was to be lost, and only by the coolness and presence of mind of the captain was a fearful calamity averted. The two vessels were within a few feet of each other; the lookout men said they could have stepped on the stranger's stern. She was full of passengers, and the cries of women and children were heartrending. "Had I not been able," writes the captain, "to see her so plainly, and the way she was going, we must have gone over her, or she might have struck us on the port bow; in either case the loss of life must have been great, and even now it seems terrible to contemplate."

Color-blindness is, according to M. Favre, consulting physician of one of the great railways of France, a frequent result of the abuse of alcohol and tobacco. He would interdict to every railway-man holding a responsible position the use of tobacco or alcohol in any form, because they tend to impair not only the power of discriminating colors, but also that of estimating distances and of perceiving objects.

The piano war having ended, at least in the newspapers, the war of the mineral waters appears to have succeeded to its place. There are two kinds of mineral waters, the natural and the artificial. The natural waters alone possess all the medicinal virtues of the sources after which they are named—as Apollinaris, Seltzers, Vichy, etc.—at least so we are assured by the "naturalist" faction. The other side, the "artificialists," claim that their product is best and purest; besides, they boldly assert that their adversaries are no better "naturalists" than themselves; that, in fact, the so-called "natural" mineral waters are freely doctored, and hence artificial. One of the "artificialists" is out in a circular, in which he quotes from the very chemists of the opposite side, to show that the Apollinaris water imported into this country differs very much from the water as it comes from the Apollinaris spring. The natural water contains of chloride of sodium 4.66 parts in 10,000, but the bottled article contains 14.088 parts. Further, the iron of the original water is removed, and the water is charged artificially with carbonic-acid gas. Hence, it is claimed, this product is strictly "artificial."

The governor of the Chinese province of Chihli has employed Mr. Arnold Hague, of San Francisco, an expert mining engineer, to examine and report on the mineral resources of Northern China.

On the occasion of the inauguration of the monument to Giordano Bruno, the Italian Government will publish the complete works of that great and original philosopher.