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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 24/January 1884/Correspondence

CORRESPONDENCE.
 

SCIENCE IN CLASSICAL SCHOOLS.

Messrs. Editors:

PROFESSOR COOKE, in his remarks on "The Greek Question," does injustice to the best classical schools in express terms, and his statements ought not to pass unchallenged. Classical culture as preparatory for any of the "learned" professions, literary or scientific, needs no defense. But Professor Cooke, if he knew the facts, should not have held up foreign universities as wholly successful in the change he proposes. He should not have said that "among others the University of Berlin, which stands in the very front rank, has already conceded, to what we may call the new culture, all that can reasonably be asked." Is it not true that these concessions were made against the unanimous protest of all the faculties; that, after earnest comparison of the progress of scholars from the Realschulen and the Gymnasia, the scientific professors are unanimous in their demand that classical training shall be restored even for those intending to enter scientific professions?

Professor Cooke, mentioning by name certain well-known classical schools, tells us that "the attempt to introduce some science requisitions into the admission examinations has been an utter failure"; that "the science requisitions have been simply crammed, and the result has been worse than useless"; that "it has, in most cases, given a distaste for the whole subject"; that "true science-teaching is utterly foreign to all their methods"; that "the small amount of study of natural science which we have forced upon them has proved to be a wretched failure, and the sooner this hindrance is got out of their way the better"; that it is hopeless to look for any change in the classical schools. These are heavy charges, if true; but do they represent the facts?

Harvard College was among the first to shake off old methods, and to introduce a system of examinations which should distinguish between those applicants who had been crammed and those who had been taught. Her professors have showed them-selves able to set papers in all branches, which proved those admitted worthy to join her classes. Professor Cooke would probably not admit that his colleagues in the scientific departments have been behind their classical associates in this respect. What, then, has been the record of the Roxbury Latin School in the six years that boys have been presented in Physics? Though every boy has been allowed to try the examinations in Physics, even if we judged him deficient, only two have been rejected out of above eighty presented. In one year, out of fifteen boys presented, sixteen honors were taken in subjects purely scientific, viz., seven in Prescribed Mathematics, two in Prescribed Physics, one in Prescribed and Elective Physics, and six in French.

It is certain that many of those eighty boys have not been crammed, and that few of them have gained "a distaste for the whole subject." For, though the time for the subject has been limited, and the apparatus meager, I have seen them eagerly making apparatus to illustrate their lessons, and discussing, at every opportunity, disputed points. In one instance three boys worked for weeks on a machine to prove their teacher in the wrong, while nearly the whole class enthusiastically supported their mates with sincere but mistaken conviction.

Perhaps one ought to speak modestly about true science-teaching being foreign to all his methods, but I will say that the trustees, taking advantage of a slight change made necessary by the rejection of Arnott as a standard of preparation, and of a fine addition to our building, have fitted up a working laboratory for our physics, and have furnished suitable apparatus. Then every boy of my present class, aided only by a paper giving directions for manipulation, is performing every experiment for himself, is putting his questions to Nature, recording and interpreting the phenomena observed.

We do not regard the study of science as forced upon us. For years before any science was required a good portion of two years was given, and still is given, to the study of botany, though our boys are not presented in that subject. And the authorities of this school are so thoroughly in sympathy with the advancement of science that, whether physics shall be required by Harvard or not, more and not less time is likely to be given to its study in the future.

With centuries of testimony for the "old classical culture," testimony unshaken by repeated assaults, of course the social prestige of our classical schools and universities holds its own. Of course, parents wish their sons fitted for and trained by classical colleges. Of course, "nine, at least, out of every ten, offer maximums in classics," and continue as they have begun. But, when Harvard is ready to remove Greek from the list of prescribed subjects, I believe that many classical schools will be found liberal enough to give pupils every opportunity to replace its study with German, mathematics, and science, taught by men both competent and sincere.

George F. Forbes,
Master in Roxbury Latin School.
Roxbury, Mass., November 14, 1883.
 

 
THE HOME-MADE TELESCOPE.

Messrs. Editors:

While reading the very useful article in the November issue of the "Monthly," by Dr. George Pyburn, on "A Home-made Telescope," it occurred to me that my own experience in that direction, not covered by Dr. Pyburn's article, might prove acceptable to some of your readers. In constructing my telescope I made the tube of paper and paste substantially as described by Dr. Pyburn, finishing with shellac-varnish as a protection against moisture. The three-inch object-glass cost about twenty-five dollars, which is nearly the total outlay for the instrument, as I use for eye-pieces those belonging to my microscope. As these range from a two-inch to a four-inch, I get a fair astronomical telescope with powers from twenty-five to two hundred diameters, affording satisfactory views of the more interesting celestial objects. For viewing the sun, a light box open on one side is attached to the tube, containing a sheet of white paper on which the image of the sun is received at a distance of nine or ten inches from the eye-piece. The stand is unskillfully constructed of wood, but, as the instrument is supported at two points, it is steady. It is of convenient height for an observer in a sitting posture, the object-end of the telescope being made to swing. When in use the telescope is strapped in a kind of long trough made by nailing two strips of boards together. This support is bolted at the end next the observer to an axle having a vertical motion. It has a horizontal motion on the bolt. The end of the support toward the object is given a vertical motion from horizontal to perpendicular by a lever running through a mortice in the stand, and working on a pin in the mortice. A rod jointed on the lower end of the lever is always in reach of the observer with which to manipulate it. The top of the lever is fitted with a long horizontal roller, on which a roller placed under the telescope-support rests at right angles. The rollers crossing each other at right angles, smooth and steady motion is had both vertically and horizontally. Such a stand may be made in a day.

George W. Morehouse.
Wayland, New York, October 29, 1883.
 

 
INSECTS AS CARRIERS OF DISEASE.

Messrs. Editors:

Although not prepared to accept entirely the theory so ably presented by Dr. King, in the September number of your magazine, as to the mosquital origin of malaria, I believe in the power of insects to transmit and disseminate infectious diseases. The active agency of mosquitoes and other insects in the spread of yellow fever has never been fully appreciated, and it is to be hoped that the attention of the boards of health in the localities liable to this terrible scourge will be directed to this source of danger, and that they will establish cordons of fires as well as men around infected districts. However, my object in writing this is merely to add further testimony as to the fact of insects carrying disease.

The interior counties of the Southern States are infested by a minute fly, a little larger than the sand-fly of the coast, but without the sting of the latter. They are called gnats or black gnats, and are exceedingly troublesome, from their habit of flying into the ears and eyes of both men and animals. They also gather upon any running sore or abrasion of the skin, and, though they do not bite or sting, they are very irritating. When they get into the eye they cause a very sharp pain, and, though immediately killed by the secretions, the eye feels the effects for some hours after. It has been observed that during the seasons when these gnats are most plentiful the disease known as sore-eyes is most common and severe.

Not being a physician, I do not know the name of the disease, but it is very contagious, and usually affects an entire family when once introduced into it. The lids of the eye become irritated and swollen, and the entire ball is red and inflamed. Some persons have lost the sight of one or both eyes from it, and its effects are felt for months after recovery. The intimate relation existing between this disease and the gnats is so well recognized that the negroes say it is caused by the gnats laying their eggs in the eye. This, of course, is improbable, but points clearly to them as the real cause in some way. I do not think the irritation arising from their getting into the eye is the origin of the trouble, because the disease does not always or even generally follow as a matter of course; but I do think that the germs are carried upon the legs or wings of the gnats, and that, when one so charged touches or gets into the eye, the germ or bacteria is deposited, and from that the disease is developed.

Of course, there are other ways of transmitting the disease, but the most active agent is undoubtedly the gnat, since after it disappears the disease ceases to spread, and gradually loses its character as an epidemic epidemic. If through your published articles intelligent observation is directed toward the dangers inherent in our insect pests, and means are discovered to avert them, you will deserve the undying gratitude of suffering humanity.

Respectfully,A. G. Boardman.
Macon, Georgia, September 22, 1883.
 

 
TIDAL ANOMALIES.

Messrs. Editors:

Professor R. W. McFarland ("Popular Science Monthly," volume xii, page 106), after demonstrating, as a result of Professor Schneider's theory, a great inequality in the daily range of the tides, confidently asks, "Do your New York tides play such tricks?"

However it may be with the New York tides I will not undertake to say, but there are numerous localities upon the globe where the tides do play such or at least similar "tricks," seemingly at variance with established theories, and in some places these "tricks" appear to be contrary to all our preconceived notions of hydrodynamics. Thus, at the entrances of the various United States ports in the Gulf of Mexico, the tides either exhibit a great inequality in their daily range, or but one flood and ebb tide occurs in the course of the twenty-five hours usually occupied by the two tides. The one-tide phenomenon is again met with among the Philippine Islands; while tides exhibiting considerable daily inequality in their range are met with in numerous other places.

That part of the St. George's Channel called the Irish Sea included between the fifty-third and fifty-fifth parallel of latitude contains a body of water covering an area of about ten thousand square miles, inclosed on all sides, except at the two entrances, north and south of Ireland. Throughout this entire body of water the time of high water is nearly simultaneous, the difference nowhere exceeding an hour. Here the average mean range of the tides is not less, probably, than twenty feet. The water to supply and exhaust this broad area of unusually large range of tides has to pass in and out at the two entrances simultaneously with the rise and fall of the water in the Irish Sea.

Now, the puzzling thing about these tides is, owing to the time of high water at the two entrances being about five hours earlier than in the Irish Sea, at least two thirds of all this water passing in and out of the St. George's Channel has the appearance of running from a lower to a higher level. Here the tides exhibit another curious freak in the distribution of their range. On the east coast of Ireland, between Wexford and Wicklow Head, for some distance there are no rise and fall to the tides; while directly on the opposite side of the channel, on the coast of Wales, the mean range is not less than fifteen feet.

But this anomaly of the water apparently running up-hill, as exhibited by the tides, will be found more clearly marked at the Strait of Gibraltar, where the motion of the tidal wave is easterly, and the easterly tidal stream begins at high water, and the westerly tidal stream begins at low water. The same phenomenon is met with again at the Strait of San Bernardino, Philippine Islands, and also on our own coast, in Martha's Vineyard Sound, where the motion of the tidal wave is westerly, and the westerly tidal stream begins at high water. At Cook's Strait, New Zealand, the motion of the tidal wave is westerly, and the westerly stream begins at half flood.

These are only a few of the more clearly marked of the many anomalies that have come under my observation while endeavoring, as a navigator, to make myself acquainted with the concrete phenomena of the tides.

In the absence of a better explanation of these anomalies, I offer the following hypothesis: That the established theory of the tides is substantially correct; but, that the primary tidal wave is in the liquid portion of the earth beneath the solid (though to a greater or less extent flexible) crust; and that the tidal phenomenon as it reveals itself to us is a secondary tidal, undulatory motion, deriving its impulse from, and is complicated by, the variable flexibility of the solid crust between the two liquid portions of the earth.

George W. Grim (Bark Coryphene).
Yokohama, Japan.
 

 
ELEPHANTS' TRICKS.

Messrs. Editors:

The following extract from an old edition of the "Arabian Nights" (Edinburgh, 1772), may be of interest, showing as it does that at an early date elephants were trained to perform tricks which excite the curiosity if not the wonder of the spectators in the modern shows. It is from the story of "Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Pari-Banou ":

"But what the Prince Houssain most of all admired was the ingenious address and invention of some Indians, to make a large elephant stand with his four feet on a post which was fixed into the earth, and stood out of it above two feet, and beat time with his trunk to the music. Beside this there was another elephant as big as this and no less surprising; which being set upon a board which was laid across a strong rail about ten feet high, with a great weight at the other end which balanced him, kept time by the motions of his body and trunk as well as the other elephant, and both in the presence of the king and his whole court."

When this story was written I do not know, as this edition gives no notes as to the original sources of the stories.

Respectfully, Davis L. James.
Cincinnati, October 6, 1833.