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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 15/August 1879/Literary Notices

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 15‎ | August 1879


The International Scientific Series, No. XXVII. The Human Species. By A. De Quatrefages, Professor of Anthropology in the Museum of Natural History, Paris. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 498. Price, $1.75.

The accomplished French anthropologist has here produced a remarkably attractive book. It is written with all that clearness and vivacity of manner for which skillful literary Frenchmen are remarkable, and the translator has well reproduced the art of the author. This, however, is but an incidental though important trait of the volume; its interest centers in the scientific treatment of a vast subject, in the admirable classification of its materials, the incisiveness of the dialectics, and the wealth of information to elucidate and illuminate a great branch of inquiry. De Quatrefages is, moreover, a man of moderate views, a cautious and disciplined investigator, and who, by long familiarity with his subject, speaks with authority, and may be trusted in the representation of his facts.

His work is divided into ten Books, the first of which consists of eleven chapters, in which he discusses in its various aspects the "Unity of the Human Species." The anthropological method is first treated with a general statement of anthropological doctrines. The problem of species and race in the natural sciences is then taken up, and the nature and extent of variations in animal and vegetable races, with their applications to man, are considered. The fusion of characters, and the crossing of races and species in the animal and vegetable kingdoms, are next dealt with, and the conclusions applied to the human race. The human groups obey the laws of crossing, and from his wide survey of the facts the author arrives at the conclusion that all men belong to the same species, and that there is but one species of man.

Book II. takes up the vexed question of the "Origin of the Human Species," which is dealt with in two chapters. There is here a sharp discussion of Darwinism, in which the author refuses to accept the conclusions of the British zoölogist. He admits the principle of natural selection as both a true cause and an important agency in producing the changes of the living world; but he totally denies that this principle is adequate to produce transformations of species or to originate new species. He praises Darwin's accomplishments as a biologist, and acknowledges the indebtedness of science to his investigations, but will not for a moment recognize that he has accounted for the origin of man. On this question he takes the conservative side, and, while cordially commending the vigorous work of advanced naturalists, and recognizing that valuable results may flow from it, he still avows himself as belonging to the old school. Of the origin of life the author says we know nothing, and "all who wish to remain faithful to true science will accept the existence and succession of species as a primordial fact. He will apply to all what Darwin applies to his single prototype." We will refer to this matter again presently.

Book III. takes up the question of the "Antiquity of the Human Species," and gives a succinct account of the relation of man to present and past geological epochs in two chapters.

Book IV. devotes also two chapters to the "Original Localization of the Human Species," and, of course, raises the question of centers of creation and unity or plurality of origins. Agassiz is taken as the ablest representative of the latter doctrine, which is criticised by Professor De Quatrefages with great force. One of the most interesting problems that will have to be worked out one of these days is that of the mental bias and incompetency of judgment acquired by scientific men as a result of their special branches of study. Professor De Quatrefages gives an interesting illustration of this in the case of Agassiz. He says: "There are singular points of resemblance and no less striking contrasts between Agassiz and the most extravagant disciples of Darwin. The illustrious author of the 'Essay on Classification' is as exclusive a morphologist as the latter: neither in his opinion nor in theirs does the idea of filiation form any connection with that of species; he declares, as they do, that the questions of crossing, of constant or limited fertility, have no real interest. We are justified in attributing these opinions, so strange in such an eminent zoölogist as Agassiz, to the nature of his early works. It is well known that he commenced his career with his celebrated researches upon fossil fishes. We have already remarked upon the influence which is almost inevitably exercised by fossils where form alone has to be considered, where nothing calls attention to the genealogical connection of beings, and where we meet with neither parents nor offspring."

Having given illustrations of the way Agassiz, in the heat of controversy, was led on to untenable positions so that at last he denied even the filiations of languages, Professor De Quatrefages proceeds: "Agassiz, when he had arrived at this point, must have felt that he had lost himself, and that in trying to harmonize the idea of a single human species with that of several races of distinct origin he was entering an endless labyrinth. His last work betrays the signs of this embarrassment only too clearly. It is probably in the hope of escaping from it that the author has finally even denied the existence of species. After having again rejected the criterion drawn from crossing and degrees of fertility, he adds: 'With it disappears in its turn the pretended reality of species as opposed to the mode of existence of genera, families, orders, classes, and branches. Reality of existence is in fact possessed by individuals alone.' Thus from adhering solely to morphology from a disregard of the physiological side of the question, from having allowed themselves to be guided by a logic which is only founded upon incomplete data, Agassiz and Darwin have arrived at a similar result. Both have disregarded this great fact intelligible to common sense, demonstrated by science, and which governs everything in zoölogy as it does in botany, the division, namely, of organized beings into elementary and fundamental groups which propagate in space and time. But Darwin, starting from the phenomena of variations which are presented by these beings, considers species only as races. Agassiz, entirely preoccupied with the phenomena of fixity, finally considers individuals only as existing in living nature."

This is the proper place to suggest that De Quatrefages himself is perhaps open to criticism from the point of view of studies that disturb the judgment. While there is force in the point he makes against Darwinism, that natural selection is insufficient to account for evolution, the same thing is pointed out by eminent evolutionists, and Darwin himself has admitted that he at first made too much of the principle. De Quatrefages makes the common mistake of considering Darwinism and evolution as the same thing. We should say that the logical fault of De Quatrefages is that he does not allow sufficient weight to that already overwhelming consensus of proofs, and which is every day becoming stronger, that evolution is a great fact of nature, which must be accepted in its interpretation whatever outstanding difficulties remain yet to be cleared up.

Book V., on the "Peopling of the Globe," deals with the interesting subject of the migration of populations by sea and land. Book VI. takes up the "Acclimatization of the Human Species," and deals with the influence of conditions on life and race. Book VII. discusses "Primitive Man—Formation of the Human Races." In Book VIII. four interesting chapters are given to "Fossil Human Races." Book IX. considers the "Physical Characters of Present Human Races," anatomical, physiological, and pathological. Book X. closes the work by an "Analysis of the Psychological Characters of the Human Species," including its intellectual, moral, and religious characters.

To those in want of a well-digested summary of anthropological science, done in a most readable form, this volume may be freely commended.

A Practical Treatise on the Combustion of Coal, including Descriptions of Various Mechanical Devices for the Economic Generation of Heat by the Combustion of Fuel, whether solid, liquid, or gaseous. By William M. Barr. Indianapolis: Zohn Brothers. Pp. 306. Price, $2.50.

This seems a very well-digested compilation of a large amount of useful information upon a subject of much technical interest and importance. Coal has already come into so extensive use as a source of heat, both for warmth in private houses and as a motive power in manufactures, and its consumption for these ends is certain to be so greatly increased in future, that the question of the best methods of using it, in various circumstances, in order to make its force more perfectly available, is one of much practical moment. It is a subject well fit to be treated separately, and Mr. Barr's volume goes over it in a quite detailed and ample way. No better idea of the fullness of the work can be gained than by giving an inventory of its chapters. The first is preliminary, on the physical properties and sources and formation of coal. This is followed by "The Atmosphere," "Fuels," "Analysis of Coal," "Combustion," "Air required for Furnace Combustion," "The Furnace," "Products of Combustion," "Thermal Power of Fuels," "Heat," "The Construction of Furnaces," "Mechanical Firing," "Spontaneous Combustion of Coal," "Coal-Dust Fuel," "Liquid Fuel," "Gaseous Fuel," "Utilizing Waste Gases from the Furnace," "A. Ponsard's Process and Apparatus for generating Gaseous Fuel."

Man's Moral Nature: An Essay. By Richard Maurice Bucke, M. D., Medical Superintendent of the Asylum for the Insane, London, Ontario. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. Pp. 200. Price, $1.50.

The author of this book, who ought to know the most about it, indicated its scope and the purpose he had in writing it in the following introductory passage:

The object of this essay is to discuss the moral nature—to point out, in the first place, its general relation to the other groups of functions belonging to, or rather making up, the individual man, and also its relations to man's environment. Secondly, to show its radical separation from these other groups of functions; then to attempt to decide of what organ it is a function—to consider whether it is a fixed quantity, or whether, like the active nature and the intellectual nature, it is in course of development. And, if the moral nature is progressive, to try to find out what the essential nature of this progress is—upon what basis the progress itself rests—the direction of the progress in the past and in the future—its causes—its history—and the law of it and to point out the conclusions which can be drawn from this progress as to the character of the universe in which we live.

We hardly think, however, that the work can be classed among important contributions to the progress of ethical science. It seems to stand, in fact, in the same relation to the constitution of the moral world that the old doctrine of the four elements—fire, air, earth, and water—stood to the constitution of the physical world. There were ingenuity and a crude utility, when nothing was known of nature, in this conception of four elemental constituents by the endless commixture of which all natural things were accounted for, but it would not be a step forward to revive it now. Dr. Bucke takes, as the foundation of his ethical system, the four simple moral elements—faith, love, hate, and fear—and, by combinations of these with each other, and with still other ideas, he aims to solve all moral problems and account for all moral phenomena. He is a physician, and links his theory with physiological and anatomical science, by assuming that the sympathetic system is the nervous center of the moral nature. He gives woodcuts of the ganglionic chains, of the cerebro-spinal and great sympathetic nerves, accompanied with an interesting account of their anatomical structure and physiological functions, and he assumes the moral relations of the sympathetic system because of its intimate association with the emotional life.

The Reign of the Stoics: History, Religion, Maxims of Self-Control, Self-Culture, Justice, Philosophy. With Citations of Authors quoted from each page. By Frederick May Holland. New York: Charles P. Somerby. Pp. 248. Price, $1.25.

Mr. Mill, in his celebrated St. Andrew's defense of classical studies in modern education, in replying to the charge that there is little valuable information to be got out of old Greek and Latin books, declared that ancient literature contains a great deal of "the wisdom of life" which may be profitably studied in these times. He did not say what there was about this wonderful wisdom that should make it necessary, after two thousand years of further experience, and all the vast developments of modern knowledge, that our youth should be compelled to learn two dead languages in order to arrive at it. Precious, indeed, must be that "wisdom of life" which is incapable of being transferred from one form of speech to another. The compiler of the volume before us quite fails to see Mr. Mill's point, and has gone about the task of importing the said wisdom of the ancients into the English tongue, so that it may be made available by multitudes who know nothing of the classical languages. The first chapter is a kind of historical essay relating to the ancient Stoical moralists. Chapter II. is devoted to religion; Chapter III. to maxims of self-control; Chapter IV. to maxims of self-culture; Chapter V. to maxims of benevolence; Chapter VI. to maxims of justice; and Chapter VII. is a kind of essay on the ancient philosophy. The compiler has raked together from all sources a mass of fragmentary proverbs, aphorisms, sentiments, and wise sayings, which are no doubt quite as sound and instructive, but not half as pungent and readable, as the saws of Sancho Panza. On the whole, we think that Mill is about right, and that people will appreciate this wisdom a great deal higher after they have mastered a couple of languages in order to get at it.

The Temperaments; or, The Varieties of Physical Constitution in Man considered in their Relations to Mental Character and the Practical Affairs of Life. By D. H. Jacques, M. D. New York: S. R. Wells & Co. 1878. Pp. 239. $1.50.

The editor of this volume, in the introduction, remarks that the "literature of the temperaments is very scanty." The reason of this doubtless is, that scientific investigators have not hitherto regarded the temperaments as a very fruitful field of study. According to Dr. Jacques, however, there is no study, not even, perhaps, phrenology itself, which can be of greater service to us in acquiring a knowledge of ourselves and our fellow men. Those who may happen to coincide with this view, and suppose that they can gain "practical guidance in the affairs of life" by closely observing differences of temperament, will do well to consult Dr. Jacques's well-written little work.

Color-Blindness, its Dangers and its Detection. By B. Joy Jeffries, A. M., M. D. Boston: Houghton, Osgood & Co. Pp. 312. Price, $2.

This subject, which is one of much scientific interest and practical importance, has engaged the attention of many inquirers during the past and present generations. That defect of vision by which certain colors can not be discriminated, and by which one is mistaken for another, and which is now well established as congenital and as very common, has no doubt existed at all times, though its detection is modern and its scientific elucidation comparatively recent. The first well-authenticated case of color-blindness was of an English shoemaker, named Harris, one hundred years ago. But the first marked instance attracting general attention was that of the English chemist, Dalton, who described his own case in 1794, so that this chromatic defect went for some time under the name of Daltonism. The tests of this deficiency have now been carefully worked out and observations made in different countries upon great numbers of persons, bringing out the general result, that about four per cent, of the persons inspected suffer from this defect in a greater or less degree, some being incapable of recognizing one color, and some another. Dr. Jeffries treats the subject systematically and fully in his volume, giving great numbers of cases and digesting all the results of the investigation in different countries. It is found that this failure of vision is so frequent that it has been necessary to institute government inspection of men in all those public employments where erroneous vision might lead to danger, as where colored signals are employed upon railroads and in navigation. In Chapter XXIII. of his book, Dr. Jeffries gives an account of the European and Massachusetts legislation which has been resorted to, to obtain security from errors of this kind.

Money, Trade, and Industry. By Francis A. Walker, Professor of Political Economy and History in the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale College. New York: Henry Holt & Co. Pp. 339. Price, $1.25.

We have here from the pen of the Superintendent of the United States Census, and author of "The Statistical Atlas of the United States," a very important contribution to certain aspects of political economy that are of the highest moment to the people of the United States. Professor Walker published a work on "Money" last year, written from the historical standpoint, and designed to introduce the student to the literature of the subject. The present work aims to make a direct popular statement of principles, without giving the history of their derivation; and it differs from the other book also by taking in the relations of money to trade and industry. The volume is therefore practical in its scope, and has been adapted, with excellent judgment, both to the popular capacity of apprehending economical inquiries and to the most urgent wants of this country at the present time for sound information. Whatever may be the unattractiveness of the "dismal science," we are satisfied that a large share of it is due to the culpable dullness of writers on economics. If a book upon money is stupid, the author must take the responsibility, for his subject is in his favor, and he may count upon the interest of his reader if he does not succeed in extinguishing it. Professor Walker writes with a vigorous directness, a clearness of perception, and an artistic skill in the use of examples and illustrations, which give a keen pleasure to the reader, and make every chapter of his book entertaining as well as instructive. His views are stated with an epigrammatic point and argumentative force that will make the perusal of his book a pleasure to all into whose hands it may fall. Embroiled as we are in this country in conflicts of opinion upon all aspects of the money question—coinage and paper currency, mono-metalism and bi-metalism, depreciation and appreciation, expansion and contraction, high and low interest, national issues and banking agencies, and scores of other monetary problems—nothing is more needed than able popular presentations of the principles that underlie all this complex system of financial phenomena, and we have seen no book better adapted to clarify the public mind upon these subjects than this of Professor Walker.

Birds of the Colorado Valley. By Elliott Coues. With numerous Illustrations. Washington: Government Printing-Office. 1878. Pp. 823.

In preparing this work, Dr. Coues has undertaken a vast amount of labor. The whole subject of the bibliography of North American ornithology and of the synonomy of North American birds has been worked up anew from the very bottom, and nothing is given at second hand. Not only the birds of the Colorado Valley, but also all others of North America, are thus exhaustively treated. The popular character of this treatise is very marked. "Respecting the biographies or life history of the birds which constitute the main text of the present volume," writes Professor Hayden, "the author's view, that this portion of the subject should be so far divested of technicality as to meet the tastes and wants of the public, rather than the scientific requirements of the schoolmen in ornithology, will doubtless meet with general and emphatic approval." The volume before us forms Part I. of the treatise, "Passeres to Laniidæ."

Aids to Family Government: or, From the Cradle to the School, according to Froebel. By Bertha Mayer. Translated from the German by M. L. Holbrook, M. D. With an Essay on the Rights of Children and the True Principles of Family Government. By Herbert Spencer. New York: M. L. Holbrook & Co. Pp. 208.

This book mainly consists of a translation of a little treatise on early education, said to be very popular in Germany. It is devoted to Pestalozzi, Froebel, and Kindergartens, and some useful hints may be picked out of it, though it will be chiefly useful in swelling the tide of Kindergarten literature, which is just now in fashion. The name of Herbert Spencer appears upon the cover of the title-page as author of a part of the book, and there are a dozen pages of extracts from him at the end. But from which of his works they are taken, or in what connection they are to be found, is not stated. The quotations, however, on the rights of children, are from a volume printed by Spencer twenty-nine years ago, parts of which he has since disavowed as no longer representing his views, and among them is the chapter on the rights of children.

The Beneficial Influence of Plants. By J. M. Anders, M.D., Ph. D. Pp. 12.

This paper treats of the old question of the influence of plants in houses on the conditions of health. The author is inclined to agree with Pettenkofer, that, as decomposers of carbonic-acid gas or as generators of ozone, plants in rooms are really of little or no value; but, as a means of supplying moisture to the air of furnace heated houses by the process of transpiration, they become important agents in promoting the health of the inmates. This conclusion is based on the writer's own investigations, the results of which are given in the paper.


Roman Catholicism in the United State?. New York: Authors' Publishing Company. 1879. Pp. 186. Price, $1.25.

The Round Trip. By John Codman. New York: Putnam's Sons. 1879. Pp. 331. $1.50.

Lectures on the History of England. By M. J Guest. London and New York: Macmillan. 1879. Pp. 568. $1.75.

Outlines of Field Geology. By A. Geikie. London and New York: Macmillan. 1879. Pp. 222. $1.

Long Life, and how to reach it. By Joseph G. Richardson, M.D. Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakiston. 1879. Pp. 160. 50 cents.

Cultivation of the Senses. Philadelphia: Eldridge & Brother. Pp. 96. 50 cents.

Is Life worth living? By W. H. Mallock. New York: Putnam's Sons. 1879. Pp. 323. $1.50.

Relations of Mind and Brain. By H. Calderwood. London and New York: Macmillan. 1879. Pp. 455. $4.

Botanical Text-Book: Practical Botany. By A. Gray, LL.D. New York: Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor & Co. 1879. Pp. 442.

Geological Survey of Ohio. Vol. III. Geology and Paleontology. Columbus, O.: Nevins & flyers. 1878. Pp. 953.

Scientific Grammar of the English Language. By W. Colegrove. A.M. New York: Authors' Publishing Company. 1879. Pp. 362.

Survey of the Northwestern Lakes and the Mississippi River. In charge of C. B. Comstock and H. M. Adams. Washington: Government Printing-Office. 1879. Pp. 62.

The Country Practitioner. Monthly. Beverly, N.J.: E. P. Townsend, M.D., editor. $2.50 per annum.

Thermodynamics. By H. G. Eddy. New York: Van Nostrand. 1679. Pp. 182.

The Position: A Thesis. By Cyrus the Elamite. Louisville, Ky.: R. R. Boiling & Co. 1879. Pp. 65.

Form of Seeds as a Factor in Natural Selection. By R. G. C. Stearne. From the "American Naturalist." Pp. 9.

American Nervousness. By G. M. Beard, M.D. From the Virginia "Medical Monthly." 1879. Pp. 24.

The Perihelia Crisis. By R. Mansill. Rock Island, 111. 1879. Pp. 42. 50 cents.

Effects of Frost of Plants. By T. J. Burrell. Pp. 9.

Seed-Breeding. By G. L. Sturtevant, M.D. From "Report of Secretary of the Connecticut Board of Agriculture." Pp. 28.

Logical Basis of the High Potency Question. By S. Potter. M.D. From the "Hahnemannian Monthly." Pp. 25.

Report of Central Park Menagerie (1878). New York: Brown print. 1879. Pp. 30.

Life and Work of Joseph Henry. By F. L. Pope. From "Journal of the American Electrical Society." Pp. 31.

Meteoric Fire-Balls. By D. Kirkwood. From "Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society." Pp. 8.

New Jurassic Mammal. By O. C. Marsh. From "American Journal of Science and Arts." Pp. 2.

Geology of the Diamantiferous Region of the Province of Paraná, Brazil. By O. A. Derby. Pp. 7.

Distribution of neat in the Spectra of Various Sources of Radiation. By W. W. Jacques. With Plates. Cambridge: University Press. Pp. 24.

"New York Herald" Weather Service (1877, 1978, 1879). Pp. 34.