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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 29/October 1886/Notes

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 29‎ | October 1886


The American Association, at its recent Buffalo meeting, chose Professor S. P. Langley as its president for the year. The vice-presidents or presidents of sections elected are: Mathematics and Astronomy, William Ferrell; Physics, William A. Anthony; Chemistry, Albert B. Prescott; Mechanical Science and Engineering, Eckley B. Coxe; Geology and Geography, G. K. Gilbert; Biology, W. G. Farlow; Anthropology, D. G. Brinton; Economic Science and Statistics, Henry E. Alford. Permanent secretary, F. W. Putnam; general secretary, W. H. Pettee; assistant general secretary. J. C. Arthur; treasurer, William Lilly. The place for the next meeting was not decided upon.

The "Botanical Gazette" says: "'The Popular Science Monthly' for June contains a portrait and biographical sketch of the late Dr. George Engelmann. The author is anonymous, but can hardly have been a botanist, or he would not be so ignorant of the true authorship of the classic 'Plantæ Fendlerianæ' as to say, 'In 1849 Dr. Engelmann published in the "Memoranda [sic] of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences" the "Plantae Fendleriame."' He infelicitously adds, regarding Fendler: 'Fendler and he [Engelmann] had become acquainted on a governmental expedition to the Rocky Mountains, to which the former was attached as engineer. . . . He traveled in the Rocky Mountains, California, Mexico, Central America, and Brazil.' Fendler did not become acquainted with Engelmann in this way; he was never attached officially to any governmental expedition; he was not an engineer; and he traveled neither in the Rocky Mountains, nor California, nor Mexico, nor Central America, nor Brazil!"

Our sketch of Dr. Engelmann was prepared from documents furnished us by his friends in St. Louis. The statements to which the "Gazette" objects are given precisely as they appeared in one of the papers. As the "Gazette" has recently published Fendler's autobiography, it is probably in a position to be better informed, respecting the events of his life, than is the biographer of another man who only had occasion to refer to them incidentally. We are glad to be set right on the facts.

Professor L. E. Hicks, in one of the papers which he read at the American Association on the geology of Nebraska, spoke of the strong artesian flow of water contained in all the borings of the eastern part of the State. This is because the region is a vast synclinal trough or basin, of which the western rim is three thousand feet higher than the eastern.

Professor Asa Gray sent two communications of a technical character to the American Association, and with them a letter to the Botanical Club, respecting his nomenclature of violets. He makes out thirty-three wild North American species of these plants, of which only eight are represented in the Old World. He acknowledges himself to be in doubt whether our pansy violet is indigenous to this country.

Mr. Joseph Jastrow read a paper before the American Association on centenarianism, in which he made an elaborate calculation of the proportion of cases in which claims to this distinction should be eliminated for want of trustworthy evidence, or as based on exaggeration. Removing these, he concluded that there were about fifty centenarians in the United States. Some of his conclusions were disputed; but he is said to have, in the discussions that followed, shown himself to be well fortified.

The statistical reports of the American Association show that it has doubled its membership within the last twenty years. Two hundred and fifty-two papers were read at the recent Buffalo meeting, against one hundred and seventy in 1876, and sixty-seven in 1866.

"Theism" is the somewhat awkward and confusing name given to a class of diseases that arise from the wrong use of tea. The predominance of nervous symptoms is a characteristic of the condition; and it may be observed in a general excitation of the nervous function, or in special weakness of the brain. Perversion of the sense of hearing is a not uncommon form of the symptoms. The weakness that often overtakes women may sometimes be traced to excessive indulgence in their favorite drink. Taken in strict moderation, and prepared with proper care, tea is a valuable stimulant; but there is hardly a morbid symptom that it is not capable, when used in excess, of producing.

The American Association designated Dr. Pohlman, of Buffalo, who had served as its local secretary, as its representative at the meeting of German Naturalists and Physicians. This will be its first formal representation before that body.

According to M. Mantegazza, 64 per cent of the Italians have chestnut, 22 per cent black, 11 per cent blue, and 3 per cent gray, eyes; 71 per cent of them have chestnut, 26 per cent black, and 3 per cent blonde hair. More than three fourths of the people have abundant hair. Southern Italy excels Northern Italy in this respect. In Tuscany the poor heads of hair preponderate (58 against 42 per cent), and baldness is most common there. The color of the beards does not always correspond with that of the locks. Generally, of ten thousand young men examined for military service, twenty were rejected for premature baldness, and fifty-two for diseases of the scalp. A few cases of red hair are found, and in one commune this color is predominant. The origin of this colored hair is a subject of discussion. Some think it has come down from an almost extinct race; others that it is a mere physiological accident, from which no conclusion can be drawn.

The English National Fish Culture Association reports that its last year's growth of newly hatched salmon was six and a half inches, and of white-fish five inches.

Mr. Blanford, meteorological reporter to the Government of India, is testing from year to year a theory of a connection between the Himalayan snow-fall and the monsoon, to the effect that the later and heavier the snow-fall in winter and spring, the later and feebler would be the following monsoon. The forecasts according to his theory were fairly accurate last year. This year they appear favorable to a prompt monsoon and abundance of rain.

A Swedish naturalist remarks upon the frequency with which names derived from natural history arc adopted by the nobility of his country. Lion, eagle, tiger, wolf, and bear, and even mythical animals like the griffin and the dragon, have furnished several families with parts of their names. Most of the domestic animals are also represented, and plants, such as the lily, rose, laurel, cedar, oak, and lime, are still more fully represented. Numerous stars form the prefix of names, but in no case the sun or moon. The word stjerna, star, is used both at the beginning and at the end of names; but the stjerna in Oxenstjerna does not represent this word, but the German Slim, forehead.

M. Blanchard conceives that the recent seismic catastrophe in New Zealand lends probability to his theory that that island is one of the remnants of a formerly existing Australian continent that has been submerged. Evidence was wanted of the liability, present or past, of the regions to shocks severe enough to suggest that former stronger shocks might have produced such phenomena of submergence as he predicates. The late shock was one of the kind.

MM. Cailletet and Mathias have reported to the French Academy of Sciences concerning their researches on the density of the liquefied gases—in the cases of protoxide of nitrogen, ethylene, and carbonic acid, that at the critical point the density of the liquid gas is equal to that of its vapor.

The number of births in France per ten thousand inhabitants has diminished more than one third in a century. It was 380 in 1771-'80, 289 in 1831-'40, and only 241 in 1871-'80.

Mr. Alfred Bennett has given an interesting account of the egg-laying and hatching habits of the emu. The hen-bird lays her brood of twenty eggs or more, at intervals of two days, during about six weeks in October and November. Before the process is completed, the cock-bird begins to sit. The eggs laid subsequently are deposited by the hen by the side of her mate, who puts out his foot and draws them under him. As soon as the eggs begin to hatch it is necessary to isolate the hen, because she fights furiously with her mate and seems disposed to kill the chicks if she could get at them. The whole of the tending of the young is performed by the male bird.

The first case of the admission of a woman to the French Academy of Sciences occurred on the 28th of June, when Sophie Kowlewska, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Stockholm, and daughter of the eminent paleontologist, was received as a member. Admiral Jurien de la Gravière, President of the Academy, made her a graceful address of welcome, and she took her seat between General Fave and M. Chevreul.

Miclucho Maclay, the explorer of New Guinea and the neighboring islands, has brought with him to Odessa, Russia, a large collection of objects illustrating the qualities of scientific interest in the countries in which he has traveled.



Mr. Gerrard Kinahan, son of the Irish geologist, who had connected himself with an African trading company, was killed by a poisoned arrow in a fight with the native tribes at Anyappa, May 23d. His training as a chemist and geologist at scientific schools in Dublin and London had thoroughly qualified him for scientific research, and there is no doubt that had he lived he would have added much of value to our knowledge of Africa. The death is announced of Mr. George Busk, F. R. S., a well-known English surgeon and naturalist, in the seventy-eighth year of his age.

Dr. R. J. Mann, who was for three years President of the English Meteorological Society, has recently died. He was a popular and prolific writer, and gave much attention to the subject of the protection of buildings from lightning. He was for several years head of the education department and medical officer in the colony of Natal.