Popular Science Monthly/Volume 27/June 1885/Notes


The "Lancet" states that "a marked increase in the death-rate from cancer during the latter part of the present century has for some years occupied the minds of several well-known pathologists in endeavors to reveal its cause." It being generally agreed that the disease is prone to arise out of prior morbid states which do not appear to be directly or necessarily related to it, among which are tissue exhaustion, the "Lancet" adds: "If we admit, therefore, as we consistently may, that tissue-exhaustion, the result of toil, anxiety, or privation, and whether inherited or induced, affords a sufficient basis for the development of cancer, we may not look far into the history of our laborious age to find an explanation of a rise in its death-rate which at first may seem anomalous."

MM. Fol and Sarrazin, of Geneva, have been experimenting on the depth to which light can penetrate the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. They find that at two hundred and eighty metres the effect is about the same as that of a moonless night, and that the chemical rays cease to be felt at four hundred metres. A curious result of their experiments is the discovery that the water of the Lake of Geneva is far less transparent than that of the sea.

Dr. James Paget, of London, has been elected a corresponding member of the French Academy of Sciences in the section of medicine and surgery, replacing M. Bouisson, deceased.

Mr. L. P. Gratacap recently read before the Natural Science Association of Staten Island a paper on chlorides in the rainfall of the island for 1884. The results of his observations on thirty-two rainfalls, or about two thirds of the number that occurred during the year, gave 228 gramme of chlorine, or ·376 gramme of common salt, as the average amount of those substances that fell with a gallon of water. Taking an average rainfall of 3·5 inches, he was led to the conclusion that, calculated as common salt, the amount of chlorides brought down with the rain in 1884 was 6·10 pounds per acre. Free hydrochloric acid and reactions for sulphates and sulphuric acid were also obtained, probably from neighboring manufactories.

Vaseline has been recommended by some one for shortening in pastry, but M. A. Riche has warned the health authorities of Paris that its use in foods is injurious to health.

An English translation is about to appear of M. Paul Bert's "First Year of Scientific Instruction." The work has had an extraordinary sale in France, amounting to ten editions of fifty thousand copies each in three years, and is used in nearly all the schools.

Platinum has been discovered in New South Wales in connection with gold in the Ophir district; in small grains in the Hunter and Macleay districts; as a nugget, weighing 208 grains, in Wiseman's Creek; and in the sand of the sea-coast near Richmond River.

In a recent United States consular report, the population of Liberia is estimated at 767,500, of whom 750,000 are aborigines not yet enjoying the rights of citizenship, and the remainder are immigrants and civilized aborigines and their descendants. The Cavalla River, navigable for two hundred miles, has great commercial importance, having an agricultural country with some gold-washings upon it.


George Helmersen, the eminent Russian geologist, is dead, at the age of eighty-two years. Having studied at Dorpat, he accompanied his teacher, Engelhart, along the course of the lower Volga and the Ural; then took part in Hofmann's and Humboldt's explorations of the Ural region. Having been appointed to a position in the Mining Institute of St. Petersburg in 1835, he made vacation geological journeys over the Kirghiz Steppe, through Norway and Sweden, the coal districts' of Poland and Silesia, the mining districts of Lakes Onega and Peipus, and the bituminous-coal regions of Kherson and Kiev; and explored the gold-mines of Beresovek. He published numerous memoirs on the results of these investigations.

Conchology has lost one of its most industrious students by the death of Mr. Geoffrey Nevill, at Davos Platz, February 10th, in the forty-second year of his age. He was a son of Mr. William Nevill, of Holloway, England, who was interested in mineralogy and had a famous collection of Meteorites. Inspired with some of his father's tastes, he began making collections of shells at an early age. With these, and other collections of his own, he enriched the Museum of Calcutta, with which the most important labors of his life were connected. He contributed many papers on his favorite study to the "Journal" of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, and compiled the valuable "Hand List of Mollusca in the Indian Museum," which, however, he was not able to complete, on account of ill health. During the later years of his life, while an invalid, he was engaged in making collections near Mentone and around the Lake of Como.

The Russian naturalist, Mr. N. Severtsoff, died January 11th, in consequence of the cold following his being plunged into the river Don by his vehicle breaking through the ice. He explored the Thian Shan in 1867, and wrote books on the vertical and horizontal distribution of the animals of Turkistan and on the birds of the Pamir, to which is owing what is known of those subjects outside of Russia.

The death is announced of Mr. Frederick Field, one of the original members of the Chemical Society, who had been vice-consul in Caldera, Chili, and Professor of Chemistry at St. Mary's Hospital and in the London Institution. He contributed to scientific publications numerous papers on various branches of chemistry, especially on topics relating to the mineralogy and metallurgy of South America.

The death is reported of Professor Dunker, mineralogist and paleontologist, of Marburg.

Sir Frederick Palgrave Barlee, who died in Trinidad last summer while serving as governor pro tem, of the island, had done considerable official service to geographical and archæological exploration. As Colonial Secretary of Western Australia, he gave encouragement to Mr. John Forrest's explorations, and had the great Lake Barlee named after him. As Lieutenant-Governor of British Honduras, he extended official support in aid of Mr. H. Fowler's journey across the unexplored part of the colony, and also encouraged and assisted the explorations of Dr. Le Plongeon in Yucatan.