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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 24/November 1883/Popular Miscellany

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 24‎ | November 1883

POPULAR MISCELLANY.

School Examinations.—In an address before the Teachers' Association of Cook County, Illinois, Colonel Francis W. Parker, formerly of Boston, now Principal of the County Normal School, severely condemned the prevalent system of examining in schools. He believed that none were more faithful in their efforts than the teachers of to-day, and none were more anxious to do good than they. He had wondered why progress had not been greater, and had come to the conclusion that the greatest obstacle was the examinations. The standard for the work had a powerful influence on the work it-self. He believed that examinations were the greatest curse the schools had, though they might be made the greatest blessing. What is the true motive of examinations? Real teaching leads to the systematic, all-sided up-building of a compact body of knowledge in the mind. In this up-building or instruction, every faculty of the mind is brought into action—perception, judgment, classification, reason, imagination, and memory. Examinations, then, should test the condition and progress of the mind in its development. Is the common standard of examinations a test of real teaching? If I am not mistaken, the examinations usually given simply test the pupil's power of memorizing disconnected facts. The surest way to effectually kill all desire to study any subject, say history, when the pupil leaves school, is the memorizing of disconnected facts. A no less sure way of creating an intense desire to read history is to take one interesting subject and read from various books all that is said about it, and then under the guidance of a skillful teacher to put together this information, arranging events in logical order, and finally writing out in good English the whole story. It is very easy for an expert in examinations to judge of the true teaching power of the teacher in such work, by the written papers. If meaningless words have been memorized, if there is a lack of research, investigation, and original thought, the results will be painfully evident.

"Examinations should not be made the test of fitness for promotion. Those who understand children will readily appreciate the excitement and strain under which they labor, when their fate depends upon the correct answering of ten disconnected questions. It is well known to you that some of the best pupils generally do the poorest work in the confusion that attends such highly-wrought nervous states. How much better, then, it is to take the work of the pupil for the whole year, than the results of one hour, under such adverse conditions! If the teacher really teaches, and faithfully watches the mental growth of her pupils through the work of one or more years, she alone is the best judge of their fitness to do the work of the next grade. The examinations of a superintendent should be to ascertain whether the principals under his charge have the requisite ability and knowledge to organize, teach, and supervise a large school. The examinations of the principal should test the teaching power of his teachers. And, lastly, the teachers should test by examinations the mental growth of their pupils. This is the true economical system of responsibility. First ascertain that superintendent, principal, and teacher can be trusted, and then trust them. The testimony of countless good teachers has been uniform, when asked, "Why don't you do better work? why don't you use the methods learned in normal schools, and educational periodicals, and books?' 'We can not do it. Look at our course of study. In three weeks or months these children will be examined. We have not one moment of time to spend in real teaching.' No wonder that teaching is a trade and not an art! No wonder there is little or no demand for books upon the science and art of teaching!"

 

The Alps in Roman Times.—The ancient Romans, says Professor H. Nissen, of Strasburg, saw in the Alps a kind of a wall completely shutting them out from the people living beyond them, and so for centuries they hesitated to take possession of the mountain-lands, although their legions had subjected all the country at the base of the Alps to the Rhine, and had made demonstrations toward Germany and England. So great was their dread of those unknown heights that they quietly endured the audacity of the rapacious tribes inhabiting them till about fifteen years B.C. Yet Hannibal had crossed them for the first time in September of 218 B.C. This was considered a deed of such magnitude that its success was ascribed by the southern people to the assistance of the heavenly powers. The darkness that rested over the Alps was first illuminated by the historian Polybius, who visited them and described them from his own observations. Roman power was extended over them by Augustus Caesar, B.C. 15. Afterward roads were built over them, fourteen at least, the laying out of which shows that they were made after careful studies of the situation by the engineers. The opening of the mountains to travel was followed by a great streaming of adventurers in search of the riches to be found in the regions beyond, and scenes were enacted very much like those which were witnessed a few years ago in California. At one time gold was found in such abundance that the price of the metal was depreciated thirty-four per cent through all Italy. The treasure-hunters carried vines with them and planted them wherever they settled down; and to this, in part, Germany owes its wealth in vineyards. The forests were laid waste, as a matter of course, just as they are now wherever a new settlement is planted, and with similar results. The Romans had no appreciation of the beauty and grandeur of the mountains, so highly admired by modern taste, but expressed only dread of them and abhorrence of their savage aspect, which they considered well represented in the barbarous names their indwellers gave to them. They entertained the wildest ideas of the height of the mountains, which they exaggerated tremendously. Pliny, who was a native of Como, at their very foot, speaks of one of the peaks as being fifty miles high, or sixteen times as high as Mont Blanc.

 

The Venom of Snakes.—Drs. S. Weir Mitchell and Edward T. Reichert have obtained the venoms from several snakes in the shape of a turbid, yellowish fluid, varying in viscidity, odorless, and having an acid reaction. All the venoms are soluble in water at ordinary temperatures, save for a slight cloudiness which but slowly settles. The poisonous principle of the venom of the moccasin and the rattlesnake appears to reside in two out of three proteids which it contains, one of which is analogous to peptones and is a putrefacient, while the other is akin to globuline and is a much more fatal poison, probably attacking the respiratory centers and destroying the power of the blood to clot. The third proteid resembles the albumens, and is probably innocent. The poisons of the rattlesnake, copperhead, and moccasin are capable of being destroyed by bromine, iodine, bromohydric acid (thirty-three per cent), sodium hydrate, potassium hydrate, and potassium permanganate.

 

Antiseptic Qualities of Copper.—A few years ago copper was universally regarded as a deadly poison, and any questioning on the subject would, as M. Gautier observes, have been regarded as absurd. This opinion has been shaken by recent investigations. M. V. Burq claims for copper beneficial properties as a disinfectant and prophylactic. He has observed for thirty years that workmen in copper and players on musical instruments of brass, who were liable daily to absorb notable quantities of pure copper-dusts, enjoyed a remarkable immunity from infectious diseases. This was established in the case of the cholera in 1869 and 1873, during the epidemic which prevailed in Paris in 1876 and 1877, and in the recent visitation of typhoid fever, which was the immediate occasion of M. Burq's making a communication to the French Academy on the subject. M. Burq has been encouraged, by his own experiments and those of other physicians whom he cites, to recommend the administration of salts of copper as a preventive and remedy in cases of infectious disease. M. A. Gautier has recently published a book on "Copper and Lead in Food and Industry," in which he denies that copper is as dangerous a substance as it has been considered to be. Citing the observations of Burq, Galippe, and other authors, he discusses, in substantial agreement with them, the effect which copper has in industry and in general use upon workmen engaged with it, and upon public health. He represents it as a normal constituent in many of our foods. Wheat, barley, rice, beans, coffee, etc., constantly contain of it quantities varying from four to ten milligrammes per kilogramme. Prepared foods greened pickles, chocolate, etc. contain much more copper, from ten to two hundred milligrammes per kilogramme; and the author shows that, as a rule, we consume five milligrammes of metallic copper a day without receiving any serious injury from it. These quantities could be increased without much danger, but the taste of the salts of the metal is so disagreeable, and their color so conspicuous, that stronger doses would make the food nauseous and repulsive, so that the danger of one taking a fatal dose of copper is really quite remote. All food becomes uneatable when it contains four grammes per kilogramme of copper salts; even voluntary poisoning by copper is almost impossible. A practical inference from these observations would be, that the care we take to tin our copper cooking-vessels is useless. M. Gautier maintains, that it is even dangerous; for most tin contains lead, a deadly poison even in small doses; and it is this metal, in M. Gautier's opinion, that is guilty of the damage that has been attributed to copper. It meets us everywhere, and always leaves its mark in some damage to our system, slight in the detail, but cumulative in the aggregate. "We absorb it with our preserved foods, from glazed papers and oil-cloths, from paint, from enamels and crockery, from tin-ware, and from cosmetics, a little every day, till at last enough of the poison is accumulated in the system to make its strength very plainly felt.

 

How Raisins are dried.—Malaga raisins are made from two distinct kinds of grapes the Muscat, which is indigenous; and the Pero-Ximenes, which was imported from Germany two hundred or more years ago. Opinions differ concerning the respective merits of the two varieties. The vines are strongly manured, and are allowed to stretch themselves over the ground and absorb all atmospheric heat. The fruit is not all gathered at one time, but the same piece of ground is gone over three times, so that all the grapes may have the necessary ripeness. The raisins are prepared by washing, by drying by steam, or by simple drying in the sun. To dry the grapes by the washing method, furnaces of feeble draught are made in which wood is used as fuel. A round kettle of three or four hundred quarts' capacity receives a lye formed from the residue or refuse of the grapes after pressing, which is either that obtained from the present year or some that has been kept from a previous vintage. The raisins, held in wire colanders holding from five to eight pounds each, are plunged in this lye while it is boiling. After the immersion, the workmen examine the skins to see if they are shriveled enough. If not, they immerse the grapes a second time, which is usually the last. The process of immersion is a very delicate one, requiring skillful watching and keen judgment on the part of the workmen. The grapes must not be allowed to burst, nor the skins to crack. The grapes must not get too hot or be too sweet, or the raisins will mold. Raisins dried by this process are considered inferior. To prepare raisins by steam, the grapes, after having been sunned for twenty-four hours, are put on drying-shelves in a room heated by steam to 160° Fahr., and kept there for twenty-four hours, when they are taken to a cooling-room to be gradually cooled till they are ready to be packed. Drying in the sun is preferred to the other processes wherever the sun affords enough heat. Stagings are built of brick or stone, on which the grapes are exposed at such an angle of inclination as to be in the sun throughout the day. A temperature of 145 is thus attained in August. At night, the grapes are covered with canvas or with boards. During the process of drying, those grapes that remain green or are spoiled are carefully removed, and each grape is turned, in order to preserve a uniformity in the darkening of color. Raisins prepared by the scalding process dry in four days, while those dried in the sun take ten days, but the difference of time is largely compensated for by the economy of expenditure. The raisins are not ready for packing immediately after being dried, but have to be kept for several days in the stores on the planks on which they are carried. Those that are spoiled or defective are picked out, especially if they appear broken or bruised, for one drop of moisture from them would probably damage a whole box. The crop of raisins produced in the Malaga district from the vintage of 1880 and 1881 is estimated at between 2,000,000 and 2,050,000 boxes of 22 pounds each.

 

Centripetal and Centrifugal Movements of the Limbs.—Dr. G. Delaunay controverts the theory of Carl Vogt, that the direction of the lines in writing, whether from right to left, the result of a centripetal, or from left to right, the result of a centrifugal, movement of the hand, depends upon exterior conditions rather than a physiological necessity. His investigations have taught him to believe that the general direction of all movements is determined by physiological and anatomical influences. Quadrupeds, he says, as a rule are capable only of vertical or forward and backward movements; a few of them, as the cat and monkeys, can make centripetal movements. Man is the only one who can execute centrifugal ones. The physiological evolution from vertical to lateral first centripetal, then centrifugal movements, is a result of an anatomical evolution that has been well described by Broca, in his work on the "Order of Primates." According to M. Delaunay's researches, movements are rather centripetal than centrifugal with primitive or inferior races rather centrifugal than centripetal with superior races; and the change from one to the other takes place as the race advances. Formerly watches were wound from right to left now they are wound from left to right. Some English watches are an exception, but the Americans, who are more advanced in evolution (so M. Delaunay says) than the European English, wind their watches from left to right. As it is with watches, so it is with most other machinery. Writing from right to left was characteristic of the earlier nations, and is still so of the less advanced peoples, but has given way to writing from left to right as the races have improved. As between the sexes, women are more inclined to centripetal, men to centrifugal, movements; this is seen in drawing and in the adjustment of clothing. Children are more inclined to centripetal than to centrifugal movements; they strike with their palms rather than with the backs of their hands, draw from right to left, and have a propensity to spell and write in the same direction. M. Delaunay sees in this a tendency to atavism. As between individuals, the more intelligent persons, better scholars, are more ready in left to right, or centrifugal; the less intelligent, poor scholars, in right to left, or centripetal motions. Idiots can hardly strike with the back of the hand, and are not at ease in lateral movements. In a psychological respect, centripetal gestures denote primitive, egoistic, retrograde ideas, as is seen in the attitude of the miser holding his treasure, and of the coward in the presence of danger. Centrifugal gestures express generous, expansive, altruistic, brave ideas and passions. The gesture of acclamation or applause, for example, is as elevated, as outward, as centrifugal, as possible. "Pleasure," says M. Charles Richet, "corresponds with a movement of blooming, of dilatation, of extension. In grief, on the other hand, we shrink, we withdraw upon ourselves in a general movement of flexion." Thus, in the psychological as well as in other points of view, centripetal gestures mark inferiority, centrifugal ones superiority.

 

Ancient Love of Honey.—The bodies of Alexander the Great and of the Spartan King Agesipolis were preserved in honey. The ancient Assyrians also used the same substance for embalming. Its preservative effects are, however, only temporary, for, although it prevents the entrance of the germs of decay for a time, it is itself ultimately overtaken by decay, and the bodies it covers must follow it. The ancient use of honey for food was much more important than its application to purposes of embalming. The Greek mythology attributes its origin to Jupiter, who in his youth was fed by goats with milk and by bees with honey. He adopted ambrosia, a compound of milk and honey, to be the food of the gods, and, taking care that the earth should be supplied, caused it to fall as a dew from the sky, and taught the bees to make cells of wax and store honey in them. Aristotle said that honey fell from the air at the rising of the stars and whenever there was a rainbow; Pliny, that it comes out of the air at about daybreak; whence, he adds, "we find the leaves bedewed with honey when the morning twilight appears, and persons in the open air may feel it in their clothes and hair." He also regrets that it can not reach us as pure as it starts, but has to be polluted by the various substances it meets in coming through the air. The northern sagas likewise represent honey as a heavenly product, and relate that it drops upon the earth from the holy ash, and is food to the bees. The ancients used honey as extensively as they did, probably, because they had not learned to extract sugar from the cane. Nearchus says the Macedonians found the sugar-cane in India, referring probably to the bamboo and its sweet juices, and Diodorus and Theophrastus speak of the sweet juice produced by a cane or reed-like plant; but, if cane-sugar was known at all in antiquity, it was known only as a rarity, and honey was still the pre-eminent sweetener. The ancients were well acquainted with the variations in the quality of honey, according to the season when it was stored and the plants whence it was derived. Honey was also used as a medicine for affections of the throat, inflammations of the lungs, and pleurisy, and as an antidote for snake and mushroom poisoning. It was given with mead in apoplexy; mixed with rose-oil it was applied to diseased ears; and it was used to kill vermin in the head. The ancient Germans had a mead or honey wine, which was made by the fermentation of a mixture of honey, water, and herbs, and contained about seventeen per cent of alcohol. Some ancient writers imagined that bees were developed in the decomposing bodies of animals, and an Arcadian shepherd is credited with having discovered the art of cultivating them in this way. Melanchthon believed something of the kind, and saw in it evidence of Providence and a noble symbol of the Christian Church. Honey formed an important article of trade in the middle ages, but gradually declined under the competition of cane-sugar. The destruction of the monasteries at the time of the Reformation caused also a limitation in the use of wax-lights, and a reduction in the demand for comb.

 

Trees of Lake Chad.—Dr. Nachtigal in his "African Journeys" describes some curious trees that grow in the region of Lake Chad. The butter-tree, called in that country tôso-kan, bears a green round fruit, ripening into yellow, about as large as a small citron. This fruit consists of a nut resembling a horse-chestnut in color and size, and a palatable, fleshy, smooth-skinned covering like plum. The nut affords an oil, which solidifies under a slight decrease of temperature, and is used throughout North Africa as a substitute for butter. The Parkia biglobosa (runno-kau) of the same region, a leguminous plant, furnishes an excellent food in its seeds, which are eatable while still unripe. The ripe seeds contain a thick, saffron-colored marrow inclosing black, shining grains. The meal made from them forms when mixed with water or milk a pap, which has a sweet and pleasant taste at first, but soon cloys. Relieved with sour milk or tamarind-juice, it forms a dish healthful and enjoyable to all. The wool-tree (Eriodendron anfractuosum) is the third characteristic tree of the country. It rises straight up, with thick, horizontal branches arranged in whorls one above the other, and derives its name from its fruit, which bursts like the pods of cotton and discloses a similar mass of fibers, lustrous and soft as eider-down. This "wool" is used for the stuffing of cushions and mattresses and for the wadding-armor of the heavy cavalry. It has the valuable property of never becoming so compact but that it can be restored to its original volume by a short exposure to the sun. The tree is a favorite place of refuge for the negroes in time of danger. Taking their children and goods up with them, they secure an excellent natural fortress among the whorls of its limbs.

 

Disposition of Sewage.—Professor Henry Robinson remarks, in a paper on "Home Sanitation and Sewage Disposal," that the latter question should be regarded as involving a combination of sanitary and agricultural interests, of which the first is paramount and the latter should be disregarded when incompatible with it. Sewage is purified in passing through the soil by one or more of three processes: 1. By simple filtration or removal of the suspended matter; 2. By the precipitation and retention, in the soil, of ammonia and various organic substances previously in solution; and, 3. The oxidation of ammonia and of organic matter with the aid of living organisms. A filter-bed may be constructed so as to have a greater oxidizing power than would be possessed by ordinary soil and subsoil, by laying over a system of drain-pipes a few feet of soil obtained from the surface of a good field, care being taken to select a soil containing a considerable amount of carbonate of lime and organic matter. Such a filter-bed would be far more porous than a natural soil and subsoil, and would possess active oxidiizng functions throughout its whole depth. The presence of antiseptics interferes with the fermentation, and refuse from chemical works hinders the progress of purification. Much valuable information has been published by Drs. Lawes and Gilbert on the chemical changes that take place in the soil under varying circumstances; and Dr. Angus Smith, a rivers pollution inspector, has much to say in his last annual report on the action of air on sewage and the mode of treating sewage so as to hasten aeration; while in a previous report he has discussed the treatment of sewage by chemicals. Much information on these subjects may also be found in Mrs. Robinson's work on "Sewage Disposal" (Spon, London). Well-adapted lands have been found capable of purifying the sewage of about five hundred people per acre. The average amount disposed of in nineteen towns where broad irrigation was practiced was equivalent to the sewage of one hundred and thirty-seven people per acre.

 

Communicability of Disease by Food.—Except the diseases associated with tape-worm and trichinæ, the only animal diseases which there is or has been ground for regarding as transmissible to man, through ingested meat, are cattle-plague, swine-typhoid, epizoötic pleuro-pneumonia, foot-and-mouth disease, anthrax and anthracoid diseases, crysipelas, and tuberculosis. Mr. Francis Vacher, medical officer, of Birkenhead, England, having examined the evidence in respect to the communicability of these seven diseases, has announced the conclusion, in the "Sanitary Record," that only two of them—foot-and-mouth disease and anthrax—can as yet be pronounced communicable to man by infected flesh, while the communicability of the others, although it can not be positively denied, remains unproved. Cattle-plague has been supposed to be allied to various forms of human disease, but pathologists now refuse to accept such kinship in any shape. The possibility of communicating even a mild form of disease by eating meat infected with rinderpest is not supported by any recorded instance; yet experiments whether such food would convey infection must have been tried millions of times. Instances are cited in which thousands of affected cattle were eaten during epizoötics with no bad results. Typhoid fever of swine was declared by Dr. William Budd, in 1865, to be the exact counterpart of enteric fever in man, but his conclusion has recently been found untenable after a most exhaustive research. The meat of swine ill with it is of inferior quality and diminished nutritive value, and is unfit for food in an advanced stage of the disease, but it does not carry typhoid fever. Epizootic pleuro-pneumonia taints the whole carcass of the animal affected, and communicates blood-poisoning by inoculation. Dr. Livingstone says that in South Africa the meat of animals that died of it caused malignant carbuncles in those who ate it. Dr. Letheby relates that a number of persons were made sick by eating sausages made of it in London in 1860. Dr. Gamgee mentions a prevalence of carbuncles in a convict establishment where such meat was used, which ceased when the use was discontinued; but similar meat has been used largely in Paris, the north of France, at Lille, and even in England, without visible dangerous effects. Cattle fed on parts of diseased hogs, and made to drink the food from diseased pleuræ, and animals in the Zoölogical gardens fed on the meat, suffered no ill effects. The communication of foot-and-mouth disease to man, according to Gamgee, "admits of no doubt." The disease has been transmitted by drinking the milk of animals affected and by inoculation, and there is a strong presumption that it can be conveyed by ingested meat. The existence of anthrax is determined by the presence of the bacillus anthracis in the blood of the subject. It is communicable by contact, for the bacilli can make their way through capillaries and large vessels, and can pierce the skin and insinuate themselves where it has not been broken. Experiment shows that the disease "can be as readily conveyed by food as in any other way. If any portion of food ingested contains live bacilli, or their spores, the consumer runs a terrible risk; and the tenacity of life of these organisms is so great we can not assign a limit to it." Several forms of disease have been referred to anthracoid causes. Whether they are anthracoidal or not can be ascertained by searching for the bacillus, which, if present, may be seen with a glass of not very high power. The communicability of erysipelas to man from infected food, though exceedingly probable, is hardly capable of direct proof. To convey it through food by inoculation only requires that it be present in the food, that the food be imperfectly cooked, and that the consumer have a minute wound in his mouth. With regard to tuberculosis, Mr. Vacher contends that direct evidence of the human form of the disease having been conveyed by ingested flesh from animals affected by bovine tuberculosis, or "pearl-disease," is wanting, although such flesh is daily sold and bought in the open market, and daily consumed by all classes. The indirect evidence "has really little bearing upon the point at issue."

 

Massage and Mental Hygiene as Curative Agents.—Dr. Play fair has given accounts in the "British Medical Journal" of three really wonderful recoveries from serious disease by the "Weir Mitchell" treatment, in which massage and mental hygiene are the principal agents relied upon. One patient, who had been unable to retain food in any quantities for five years, began to recover in three days, and in ten days had an enormous appetite; another, a sufferer for four years from partial paralysis, began to recover in forty-eight hours, and was well in a month; the third had been epileptic and partly paralytic for sixteen years. She began to improve in a few days, was out driving and walking in six weeks, and two months afterward went on a sea-voyage to the Cape of Good Hope, in the course of which she attended her former nurse through a fit of sickness, and from which she came back in robust health. The treatment in these cases consisted of removal of the patient from her home surroundings, and her complete isolation with her nurse; and systematic muscular movement, with the use of the faradaic current, and vigorous feeding—to which the appetite was found ready to respond. Dr. Playfair attributes the chief value of the treatment to the fact that it appeals not to one only but to many influces of a curative character. The "Louisville Medical News," reviewing the cases, believes that the imagination is the most prominent agent in effecting the cures, and is ready to class them with "faith-cures."

 

Phosphorescence in Plants.—M. Crié remarks, in a communication to the French Academy of Sciences, that "it is known that the flowers of phanerogams are capable under certain circumstances of producing phosphorescent light. The phenomenon has been verified, especially of the nasturtium and the marigold. Some years ago I myself saw phosphorescent lights emitted in stormy weather from the flowers of the Tropóelum majus, cultivated in a garden. The emission is especially noticeable in the mushrooms. The agaric of the olive, which grows in Provence, at the foot of the olive-trees, is distinguished for its white, quiet, uniform light, which resembles that of phosphorus dissolved in oil." Several other species of luminous agaric are known, but the property is not limited to that genus. The Rhizomorpha, or the vegetative apparatus of a considerable number of mushrooms, are also phosphorescent. These cryptogams, which are common in mines, give a light by which miners can see their hands. The luminous threads of Rhizomorpha subterranea are easy to perceive in the Pontpean mine, near Rennes. Luminous filaments of a rhizomorpha have been observed in branches of the elder. The Xylaria polyrnorpha, collected from old stalks in a garden, has been seen to emit a feeble white glow, like that of phosphorus in the air.

 

Professor Virchow on Humboldt.—A monument to William and Alexander von Humboldt was unveiled at the University of Berlin on the 28th of May. Professor Virchow delivered an address on the occasion, in which he spoke in the highest terms of the character and value of the work of the two brothers. "We older men," he said, "who have learned personally from Alexander von Humboldt, and have in part worked with him, feel our strength renewed when we see how the memory of the time of the new birth of our people is perpetuated to posterity in the many monuments of our city. One who walks through our streets will discover that Goethe and Schiller, Stein and the Humboldts, Bliicher and Schwarnhorst, did not casually live side by side, but that a recognizable connection prevailed in their development, and wove their works together to a single end. Every German will look with pride upon the men who have risen from out of the midst of the people to the highest places of honor, because they wakened and unfettered the noblest forces of the nation. Especially could our academic youth, who have these models before their eyes every day, learn from the history of such men what recompense genuine work can gain. Humboldt, who completed the 'Cosmos' in extreme age, and who wrote in the last year of his life, 'For thirty years I have had no rest, except at night,' was at one time a sickly lad, whose teacher in the first years of his childhood doubted whether he would ever manifest any more than the most ordinary mental faculties. He, whose youth fell in an age when hardly anything but speculative wisdom, poetic invention and dogmatic tradition were held in honor, had, in his incessant struggles in nearly all the domains of natural science, brought into avail that stronger objective method of thought, comprehensive in its grasp, which has since become the pride and the common estate of the learned of modern times. When he at last, like the world-sages of antiquity, united in himself all the knowledge of his time on natural subjects, and with it the comprehension of its historic growth, it was not the knowledge of a compiler that he displayed, but the fruit of long special work in each single field. He served in the ranks as a national economist and as a miner, as an astronomer and as a physicist, as a chemist and as a geologist, as an anatomist and as an experimenter in vegetable and animal physiology. He was the first scientific traveler who independently studied all the natural and political conditions of the countries visited by himself. Political and physical geography, the study of terrestrial magnetism, plant-geography, and ethnography, grew under his care to be independent branches of science. His example was operative everywhere, as that of one of the most self-active masters in the shop. He has been called vain and selfish; but his vanity was never so strong as to overcome his love of the truth, and his selfishness never prevented his fostering all budding talent and joyfully greeting every advance in knowledge. He refused high positions, so strongly was his innate inclination turned toward the advancement of knowledge. Long after he had become one of the recognized teachers of mankind, he did not cease to learn; but he learned as an investigator learns; and, even as against the most adept, he never gave up the right of testing by his own proofs. It was thus that we learned to know Alexander von Humboldt. His frame was bent under the burden of years and labors, but his spirit was high-set, and his eyes still looked clearly into the world. He was valuable to us as one who had the highest knowledge, and was at the same time perfectly discreet, as a high-priest of truth and humanity, as a true friend of civic freedom. Feeling this, we have erected his monument. May it be a symbol to many generations of the efforts of this age!"

 

The Physicians' Part in Evolution.—The "Lancet" has been asked, "Why, if it be natural and expedient that only the 'fittest' should survive, are we [the medical men] as a profession chiefly interested in prolonging the lives of those who have been rendered unfit by disease or accident?" It admits that, "if it were really a fact that the whole business of our lives, the work to which we devote the best of our strength and intelligence, had for its object to antagonize the natural course of progress as regards the race, although compassion for the individual might impel us to continue the effort, it would certainly damp the ardor of our enterprise to reflect that those we are striving to keep alive ought in the interests of posterity to be left to die." The seeming paradox the "Lancet" reasons is, however, in truth a fallacy. It is founded on an imperfect view of the inter-relations of the world. "Survival of the fittest" is not the same thing in its result as "adaptation to circumstances." Development, through and by the environment, is the method of Nature, but this does not necessitate that man should be the creature of circumstances. The environment is not a constantly progressive agency of development. It is itself subject to the law of survival. It can not, therefore, be absolutely or abstractly true that the fittest for the existing conditions of life in any particular place or epoch ought to survive. It is wholly out of our power to determine whether the particular type of development which seems to be making its way in the world and asserting its superiority by survival, and is for a time regarded as normal, is the best type, or that which is destined to endure and be perfected. The surroundings of life are progressively changing as well as the subjects of life. There is a perpetual struggle for supremacy between the two, and it is always an open question whether the resultant of this struggle will be found to embody a greater or less modification of subject or circumstance. "Our duty as practitioners of the art of healing does not relate to the surroundings, except in so far as these may be regarded a tributary to the central fact of life. If we can modify the conditions and circumstances of existence so as to render life easier, it is in our day's work to do this, and to do it heartily; but the commission we hold is to prolong life, and to fight against all that tends to destroy or weaken it. In so doing, we are not merely benefiting the individual, but the race, because, so far as we know, man is the highest created organism, and as such he is destined to dominate circumstances. For us 'man' takes the form of men. The race may be higher than the individual, but it is with the latter we have to deal."

 

Ancient and Modern Egyptian Schools and Libraries.—Mr. Reginald Stuart Poole has attempted to trace an historical connection between the ancient Egyptian schools and library at Heliopolis and the Alexandrian Library and University, and even the present Moslem University at Cairo. The sources of information respecting the ancient schools are chiefly old hieratic papyri, some of which were actually exercise-books of students, and they tell us of temples attached to colleges in various large towns. At Heliopolis, where were the most famous schools, religion, law, mathematics, medicine, and language were taught. Primary schools were provided for all classes; and libraries were attached to the temples. The old methods were adopted in the institutions founded at Alexandria by the Ptolemies, but, as these were intended for a mixed population of Egyptians, Greeks, and Hebrews, law and religion were excluded, to avoid controversy. Learned men were maintained by the state to prosecute research, and a botanical garden and a menagerie were added. The first Alexandrian Library was burned when Julius Caesar captured the place. The second disappeared at the time of the Arabian conquest. The university was restored by one of the caliphs two centuries after the conquest. The great University of Cairo, which has five thousand students, and practically includes all the. Alexandrian faculties except medicine, was founded by a Greek officer of the Fatimite caliphate, A. D. 969-970.

 

The Jackal, the Fox-Fables, and the Dog-Star.—Herr O. Keller, in a paper on "The Jackal in Antiquity," urges that the Western nations, who had foxes but no jackals, borrowed the traits ascribed to jackals, in Oriental fables, with the fables, and transferred them to their foxes. Thus the Grecian foxes were endowed with the attributes of two animals, and the most curious fox-fables of Æsop are in their origin Indian jackal-fables. Some of Æsop's fables represent the fox as the follower and servant of the lion, which he is not known to be in any sense. The jackal, however, is in the habit of following the lion at a respectful distance, and lives on what he can pick up from the deserted repasts of the king of beasts. This trait was observed by the ancient Indians, and it was a natural result of the observation that their vivid imaginations, discovering royal prerogatives in the lion, should endow his follower with the qualities of a minister and counselor, and make him to assist his majesty by using in his behalf the qualities of slyness and cunning in which the royal beast was deficient. The Greeks substituted foxes for jackals because they knew nothing about them, and their foxes came nearer than any other animal to answering the descriptions of them. The transfer was made easier by the gradual development of the fables from simple nature-stories into moral lessons, in the course of which absolute truth to nature grew less essential, and the representation of abstract qualities under purely conventional masks became more prominent. The incongruous association by the Greeks of the supposed evil influences of Sirius with the harmless dog are susceptible of a similar explanation. The Chinese, however, who also attributed evil qualities to the dog-star, called it the jackal-star, and appropriately; for as the heat and drought of which it is the forerunner are destructive to the crops, so likewise are the jackals, which make their home in the fields, and are constantly running through them in gangs, destroying myriads of plants, in search of their food. To the Egyptians, Sirius was also the jackal-star, but foreboded good, for it appeared just before the time of the inundation. The Mesopotamians also recognized in it a forerunner of beneficent inundations, and gave it the name of the dog, an animal which they held in high esteem. The Greeks borrowed the Mesopotamian name, and kept the Chinese idea, which harmonized well with the character of their own dog-days. The origin of the dog-star has been associated by some other writers with the idea that Sirius, the chief of the stars, was the shepherd-dog to the host of the heavenly sheep, represented by the other stars.

 

Deforestization and Floods in China.—The country of the lower Yangtse-Kiang in China suffered terribly from floods last July and August. Dr. Macgowan has taken advantage of a trip up the river, for the distribution of relief to sufferers, to make inquiry whether any connection existed between the inundations and the removal of the forests. China, old as it is, is not so old but that the process of denuding the land of trees may be distinctly traced. The treeless aspect of the hills of the lower Yangtse now attracts attention from every voyager; yet no mention is made of their barren condition by Ellis or Davis in their narratives of Lord Amherst's embassy in 1816, but wooded hills are alluded to; from which it would seem that the deforestization is recent. The inundations by which the lower country is frequently submerged come from the Poyang Lake, concerning which very little is actually known, either as regards its floods or its rain-falls. It is known only that there is evidence of a great thinning out of forests on the mountains of Southern Kiangsi, although it has not been carried to the extent that Che-kiang has experienced, where arboriculture is systematically pursued to meet demands for timber. In the hills near the coast, which are stripped annually of grass, ferns, and bushes for fuel, the process of the gradual denudation of the hills is distinctly observable. The soil is never carpeted by leaves; no humus forms; rain, instead of slowly percolating as through a sponge, rushes in water-courses as from the roof of a house into gutters, speedily filling them, and carrying with it soil, which tends to increase the evil. In this way the lakes are destined to become desiccated much sooner than they otherwise would be. It is because of the occasional sudden rush of waters that freshets are always attributed to the spouting of chias—subterranean monsters. Several of those are reported as being concerned in the late floods. While there is conclusive evidence that there has been in recent times a great destruction of forests, it is not clear that floods have proportionately increased in number or rapidity; it is, however, what might be expected, and it is what is affirmed by natives when accosted on the subject. Deforestation has had one favorable effect in the south of China, in reducing the ravages of jungle malaria, which recedes with the advance of agriculture.

 

New Serviceable Metallic Alloys.—Three new metallic alloys have been recently introduced, which seem fitted to serve as substitutes for bronze, imitation gold, and imitation silver. Delta, a bronze made by Mr. Alexander Dick, of London, is a compound of iron, zinc, and copper, the proportions of the ingredients being varied according to the color it is sought to obtain, and has the advantages of extraordinary tenacity and flexibility. It can be beaten, and forged, and drawn when cold, takes a perfect polish, and, exposed to the air, is less liable to tarnish than brass. Aphthite is a "gold," which does not change, and is composed of eight hundred parts of copper, twenty-five of platinum, and ten of tungsten. Its shade of color may be changed by varying the proportions of its constituent metals. Sideraphthite is a similar "silver" metal, and is composed of sixty-five parts of iron, twenty-three of nickel, four of tungsten, five of aluminum, and five of copper. These alloys are capable of resisting hydrosulphuric acid, are not attacked by organic acids, and are only slightly attacked by inorganic acids.