Popular Science Monthly/Volume 17/September 1880/Notes


Professor William Lee, M. D., of Washington, is the author of the article entitled "The Extreme Rarity of Premature Burials," published in the August "Monthly." The misspelling of the name was an editorial blunder, for which we beg to apologize both to Dr. Lee and to our readers.

M. Toussaint has been investigating the question of the transmission of tubercle, by means of experiments on the hog. He caused animals to eat the lungs of tuberculous sheep, and tried inoculation by the blood and by milk, and found that the animals became diseased in every case. Similar effects were produced upon healthy animals which lived with tuberculous ones.

The production of nickel has assumed great importance in Norway within a few years. Eleven mines had been opened between 1861 and 1865, which yielded an average of 3,450 tons a year. In 1875 fourteen mines had been opened, which furnished a maximum of 34,500 tons. The larger part of the yield is exported in the condition of ore, the rest is reduced on the spot.

The fiftieth annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science will begin at Swansea, August 25th. Dr. Andrew Crombie Ramsey, Director-General of the Geological Survey of the United Kingdom and of the Museum of Practical Geology, will preside and deliver the opening address. The secretaries are Captain Douglas Galton, F.R.S., and Philip Lutley Sclater, Ph.D., F.R.S., general secretaries, and J. E. H. Gordon, assistant secretary.

The Swiss Natural History Society will hold its general meeting from the 12th to the 15th of September, at Brieg, in the Canton Vaud.

The death of Mr. Alfred Swaine Taylor, a well-known English physician and toxicologist, is announced. He was born in 1806, studied in the leading medical schools at home and abroad, was the first holder of the chair of Medical Jurisprudence in Guy's Hospital, and was the author of several professional treatises, especially on the subjects of poisons and poisoning, chemistry, and medical jurisprudence.

The French Association for the Advancement of Science holds its meeting for this year at Rheims, August 12th to 19th. An exposition of local industry and archæology, and excursions, the most notable of which is to the Han Grottoes, in Belgium, are arranged for in connection with the meeting.

A committee was appointed in 1876 by the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, at the request of the Centennial Commission, to report upon the subject of the insects and plants that might be introduced to our soil through the medium of foreign exhibits. The report upon plants has been delayed till this year in order that, by taking several seasons for the examination, the committee might be sure that no species escaped them. They now announce that they have found in the Exhibition grounds plants of but thirteen species, and those only in isolated specimens showing no disposition to spread. Some of the species are from the western part of our country, some from Europe, and a few from Japan.

Professor Christian August Friedrich Peters, of Kiel, editor of the "Astronomische Nachrichten," died May 8th, after an illness of several months. He was born in Hamburg in 1806; was appointed an assistant in the observatory at Hamburg in 1834; to the Russian observatory at Pulkowa, where he remained for ten years, in 1839; was named Professor of Astronomy in the University of Königsberg in 1849; and director of the observatory at Altona, which was afterward removed to Kiel, in 1854. His most important memoirs were on "Nutation," on "The Parallax of the Fixed Stars," and on the "Proper Motion of Sirius."

Professor W. H. Miller, of the University of Cambridge, died May 20th, in his eightieth year. He succeeded Dr. Whewell as Professor of Mineralogy in 1832, and published his treatise on "Crystallography," a work which was almost universally accepted as a standard, in 1838. His "Manual of Mineralogy" appeared in 1854, and was full of the results of his own research. He was the author of several other books and memoirs.

At a show of birds lately held in Berlin, several canaries were exhibited that attracted much attention on account of the peculiar colors of their plumage. Some were green, others red and light brown, and others of a soft gray tint, while all differed more or less from the light yellow of the common bird. These variations of color were produced by the daily use of cayenne pepper in the food of the birds. The pepper is given in small quantities at first, and the birds appear to like it, but the immediate effects are anything but pleasing to the beholder. The feathers soon begin to fall, giving the bird very much the appearance of molting; in a short time, however, new feathers make their appearance, and it is then, as they attain full growth, that they exhibit the curious tints observed.

Professor C. W. Claypole, of Antioch College, Ohio, has recently been examining the Schliemann collection of antiquities in the South Kensington Museum in London, and he concludes that the names attached to some of the objects in the collection betray a rather unwarrantable use of the imagination. Among others, the little hourglass-shaped pebbles labeled "Minerva Ornaments," and hitherto regarded as idols, are in his opinion nothing more than "Trojan net-sinkers," being almost identical in form and appearance with the "net-sinkers" frequently found on the shores of our lakes and rivers.

Dr. James Prescott Joule has received the Albert Medal from the Society of Arts, for having, as the award reads, established, after most laborious research, the true relation between heat, electricity, and mechanical work.

Dr. Paul Broca, the distinguished French anthropologist, was taken ill at the session of the French Senate of July 8th, and died the following night. He was fifty-six years old, and had lately been elected a life-member of the Senate.

Holland has lost its leading chemist by the death of Professor G. J. Mulder, of Utrecht, which took place in May last. Professor Mulder was born in 1802, and, previous to taking the chair of Chemistry at Utrecht in 1841, served as Professor of Botany and Chemistry at the Rotterdam Medical School. He made a variety of researches and discoveries in the chemistry of vegetable physiology, and in animal chemistry proved the presence of carbonic acid as a normal constituent of the blood. He was the author of numerous works, and the editor from 1842 to the time of his death of the only chemical journal of Holland.

M. Camille Flammarion has been awarded the Monthyon prize of the Paris Academy of Sciences for his new work on "Popular Astronomy" ("Astronomic Populaire").

Letters recently received in England from Mr. Whymper state that he has found very extensive glaciers on the mountains Cayambe, Sarauscu, and Cotocachi, and had previously discovered other glaciers on Chimborazo, Sincholagua, Antisana, Cotopaxi, Iliniza, Carihuairazo, and Quilindaiia. Many of these glaciers are as large as the largest Alpine ones, and the upper four thousand feet of Cayambe, Antisana, and Chimborazo are almost completely enveloped by them. Mr. Whymper is contributing largely to our knowledge of these mountains, for the last edition of the "Encyclopædia Britannica" mentions the glacier of the mountain Altar as the only real glacier known to exist in the Ecuadorian Andes.

The entire absence of scurvy during the voyage of the Vega is attributed by Professor Nordenskjöld to the free use of a little berry that springs out of the ice and snow during the summer. It bears profusely, and has a taste like the raspberry, but more acid. The fruit is dried and mixed with the milk of the reindeer, and can be carried in a frozen state for thousands of miles. It appears also that the party were never wholly without daylight, having two hours of it during the shortest day, although the sun was not above the horizon.

The Custos of the Berlin Agricultural Museum, Dr. L. Wittmacht, has lately been engaged in the examination of some partly carbonized seeds which were found by Virchow and Schliemann in their excavations. Among them were a vetch (Ervum Ervilia, L.), field-beans, and peas. The discovery of the peas is the more interesting because, according to several authors, peas were unknown to the ancient Greeks. A remarkable seed was a hard wheat, extremely small grained, very sharp, closely pressed, extraordinarily flat on the furrowed side. The grains are wholly different from those of every wheat hitherto known, and are especially distinct from the thick-bellied grains of the Egyptian mummy-pits and of the lake-villages.

A practical test of the efficiency of the electric light in naval operations was made recently on board two vessels of the British navy at Gibraltar. During the practice, which was continued for nearly an hour, every hole and cranny on the western face of the rock was searched out and illuminated with the clearest distinctness, and every boat and vessel in the bay underwent a similar minute examination. Only a limited surface could, however, be illuminated at a time, so that the process of search was somewhat slow.

M. Boiteau has reported to the French Academy of Sciences that the application of sulphide of carbon as a cure for the phylloxera has proved thoroughly successful. Diseased vines, which were treated with this substance two or three years ago, look even better now than they did before they were attacked; and it seems established that the sulphide has no damaging effect on the productiveness of the soil. The only drawback to the use of the substance is its scarcity and consequent high price.