Popular Science Monthly/Volume 25/July 1884/Notes


The thirteenth series of Professor C. G. Rockwood's "Notes on American Earth-quakes," in the "American Journal of Science," includes seventy-eight notices of shocks that occurred on the American Continents during 1883. Of these, eight were in Canada, three in New England, two in the Atlantic States, eleven in the Mississippi Valley, and twenty-three on the Pacific coast, while the rest were in Mexico, the West Indies, and Central and South America. The more important shocks were recorded—January 11th, Cairo, Illinois; March 8th, Panama; May 19th, Ecuador; August, Mexico; and October 6th, Alaska. Most of the shocks were very moderate, and caused little or no damage.

Dr. Ernst Behm, a German geographer, died March 15th. He had been for twenty-eight years editorially connected with the "Geographische Mittheilungen" of Justus Perthes in Gotha. He was joint editor of Behm and Wagner's celebrated statistical publication.

The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania have elected Dr. Joseph Leidy, Director, and Professor of Anatomy and Zoölogy, of the new Biological Department. Dr. J. T. Rothrock has been elected Professor of Botany; Dr. A. J. Parker, Professor of Comparative Anatomy; Dr. Benjamin Sharpe, Professor of Invertebrate Morphology; Dr. Horace Jayne, Professor of Vertebrate Morphology; and Dr. Harrison Allen, Professor of Physiology. Women are to be admitted as students.

The whole history of the once famous book, the "Vestiges of Creation," is told by Mr. Alexander Ireland, in the twelfth edition, just published. In agreement with what the world has long understood, the author is at last declared on the title-page to have been Mr. Robert Chambers, According to Mr. Ireland's account, Mr. Chambers employed his wife as his amanuensis in writing the book, and Mr. Ireland as the medium of communication with his publishers. Only four persons were at first in the secret of the authorship, of whom Mr. Ireland is the sole survivor.

Experiments by Messrs. R. Pictet and E. Yung have resulted in showing that some of the microbes at least can sustain a temperature of -70° to -130° C. (-94° to -200° Fahr.) for periods of several hours, and still live and thrive on the accession of more favorable temperatures.

It is suggested that papers will be acceptable to be read before the Anthropological Section of the British Association on American subjects, as follow: "The Native Races of America, their Physical Characters and Origin"; "Civilization of America before the Time of Columbus, with Particular Reference to Earlier Intercourse with the Old World"; "Archæology of North America, Ancient Mounds and Earth-Works, Cliff-Dwellings and Village-Houses, Stone Architecture of Mexico and Central America," etc.; "Native Languages of America"; and "European Colonization and its Effects on the Native Tribes of America," Papers should be sent in to the office of the Association, 22 Albemarle Street, London, W., on or before July 1st.

Dr. Robert Angus Smith, Inspector-General of Alkali-Works for the United Kingdom, died May 12th, aged sixty-seven years. He was the author of a "Life of Dalton," of a work on "Air and Rain," and of papers in the "Philosophical Transactions, the "Journal of the Philosophical Society," and the "Journal of the Society of Arts."

Mr. W. F. Hillebrand describes, in the "American Journal of Science," what he regards as a new mineral which he has found in connection with the sulpho-bismuthite of copper and silver. It occurs in the form of small, slender crystals, in cavities of the bluish-gray sulpho-bismuthite, which are generally bronzed by oxidation, and so deeply striated as sometimes to present the appearance under the glass of bunches of needles. Their habit is strikingly like that of bismuthinite, for which the crystals were at first taken. Analyses and the examination of their properties mark them as probably of a pure sulpho-bismuthite of copper, in the more compact portions of which silver may replace a part of the copper, while in some cases a further replacement of copper by lead takes place. No name is as yet proposed for the mineral.

At a recent meeting of the Sociological Section of the Birmingham Natural History Society, it was decided to begin immediately the preparation of an index to the study of sociology. Letters were read from Mr. Spencer, approving the system which the section proposes to adopt, and saying that time and the condition of his health alone had prevented his beginning a similar work.

M. Charles Adolph Würtz, the distinguished French chemist, whose name is particularly associated with the progress of organic chemistry during the last half-century, died very suddenly on the 12th of May last. A portrait and a sketch of M. Würtz were published in "The Popular Science Monthly" for November, 1882.

The American frigate Pensacola, passing on the 22d of December last by the Strait of Sunda, crossed large fields of pumice-stone, and continued to observe small quantities of such matter till the 10th of January, when it was in latitude 16° 7' south, and longitude 66·8° east. The pumice was not seen every day, but few days passed without observing some; and those cakes that were seen after the 1st of January were covered with shells and plants, while some held little crabs in their pores. These pumices were derived either from the May or the August eruption of Krakatoa.

M. L. Cruls, describing, in a note to the French Academy of Sciences, the "red sunsets" as seen in Brazil, states that at first the setting of the sun was preceded by a gradual darkening caused by the interposition between the eye of the observer and the sun of a bed of absorbing vapors, having a smoky aspect, like that of "dry fog." At a later period the glow corresponded closely in appearance with the phenomenon as described in Europe. M. Cruls is of the opinion that the glow is of the same character as the twilight phenomena described in the "Espace céleste" of M. Emm. Lias, which, though possibly having a meteoric origin, partook of the character of atmospheric twilight.

Signor Quintino Sella, President of the Accademia dei Lyncei of Rome, died on the 14th of March. He was distinguished for valuable researches and papers of great excellence in crystallographic mineralogy, and for his active interest in the geological survey and the preparation of the geologic map of Italy. He was President of the International Geological Congress at Bologna, in 1881. To scientific eminence he added ability as a statesman; and he was for many years Minister of Finance in Italy. Men of science are invited to contribute to the placing of a bronze wreath on his tomb.

Professor Dana believes that the extraordinary rise in the Ohio River, in February last, was the result of the falling of heavy rains at a time when the ground was so solidly frozen as to be wholly destitute of the power of absorption. Compared with this, the extent of the forest region had very little to do with the height the river attained; and the same conditions of frost and heavy rain prevailing, the result would not have been materially different had the primitive forest been standing.

It is reported that a cocoanut plantation has been started on the southern coast of Florida. One hundred thousand plants have been set out on a tract of about one thousand acres, at a cost of nearly $40,000, and next winter the number is to be increased. It requires six years for the trees to begin to yield returns, but it is estimated that in ten years the grove will pay ten per cent on a valuation of $2,000,000. A full-grown tree will mature about sixty nuts annually. The Florida cocoanut-culture is limited, however, as it is confined exclusively to the sea-coast, and the trees can be grown only to a small extent in southern Florida.

Professor H. Schlegel, Director of the Royal Museum of Natural History at Leyden, died in January last. Dr. Schlegel was born in Altenburg, Saxony, in 1804, and was appointed Director of the Museum in 1858. Under his superintendence, this institution became one of the richest of the kind in existence. Dr. Schlegel was a high authority in descriptive zoölogy, especially in the department of the vertebrata.