Popular Science Monthly/Volume 3/July 1873/Notes


At a recent meeting of the Russian Ethnographicai Society, Venioukoff read a memoir about the sect of the Skoptzi, or Castrates. It appears that these sectaries now number 5,444, less than half of them being women. St. Petersburg may be regarded as their central point, for it is from that city that the sect has spread over the rest of the country. Official notice was first taken of the Skoptzi in 1805, and then their number was only 14. Among their members are eight proprietary nobles, four of these being ladies. All classes of society are represented. The author observes that the Skoptzi are long-lived, and tall of stature. They are narrow-shouldered, have a feminine voice, and are without beard or mustache.

Patents have been issued in France for a series of machines capable of manufacturing all kinds of casks and barrels. The inventors, Messrs. Thuillier and Gerard, of Boulogne, recently gave a public exhibition of their machines, and turned out in a comparatively short space of time a large number of barrels. The machine-made ware is said to be better than that made by hand.

The census of April 3, 1871, just published, sets down the population of Great Britain and Ireland at 31.628,338, an increase of 2,557,406 in ten years or nearly 9 per cent. Ireland decreased 6710 per cent. in the same period. The area of England and Wales is 37,319,221 acres.

The pleasant odor of cedar, according to Mr. E. Lewis, appears to be as persistent as the wood itself. Slivers taken from white-cedar stumps found twelve feet under water at low tide, near the Narrows entrance to New York harbor, had the odor of the newly-grown wood, and a piece not more than twice the size of one's finger perceptibly scented a drawer for more than a year. "It is certain," says Mr. Lewis, "that the coast, where the trees of which these are the stumps grew, has since undergone a depression of 18 or 20 feet, an event which may have occupied as many centuries."

The eminent chemist, Berthelet, was lately elected a member of the French Academy of Sciences. The honor has come tardily enough, and was conferred only by the very small majority of three, sixty members voting. The Revue Scientifique openly charges the academicians who voted against Berthelet with bigotry, their objections being taken against the freethinker rather than against the man of science.

The idea of making each of the several parts of many different machines interchangeable, says the Bulletin of Wool Manufacture, is unquestionably of American origin. Its author, a mechanic named Thomas Warner, employed in the Springfield Armory, offered the suggestion to the Ordnance Bureau, Washington, but the idea was scouted as impracticable. Mr. Warner persevered, however, and obtained a trial for his system in the Springfield establishment. It is now followed in all armories throughout this country, as well as in manufactories of sewing-machines, watches, etc. Our contemporary says: "It is this system which enables us to supply all Europe with arms, and to export sewing-machines to all the European nations, notwithstanding the vastly higher cost of our labor."

The statistics of disease and mortality in the manufacturing establishments of the Russian Empire are absolutely startling. The number of such establishments in Russia is estimated at 90,000, and the number of work-people employed in them at 1,000,000. They are subject to numerous diseases of a serious character, among which the factory-typhus holds the first place. The sick-rate is from 60 to 70 per cent., and the mean duration of life is only 20 years. Rickets prevail to a deplorable extent among the youth of the working-class, and the effects of a factory-life upon children are described as disastrous. A government commission is to investigate the matter.

De Fonvielle calls the attention of the French Academy of Science to a remarkable passage in a work on Comets, by Hevelius, written in the year 1652; it is in harmony with the most recent observations, and is as follows: "Comets are made up of various nuclei and bodies, and hence these phenomena do not by any means consist of one solid spherical body or nucleus, as do the planets, but are made up of many different opaque nuclei and bodies, connected together, some rarer and more tenuous matter existing between, and allowing a free passage for the sun's rays."

It is rather amusing to find Mr. Huxley mixed up with a matter of ecclesiastical concernment, but his position as rector of a university in so religious a country as Scotland makes it inevitable. A student of divinity was presented to a "bursary" in the university by the regular patron of the fund, but he was rejected by the Professorial "Senate" on the ground that he was not a member of the Established Kirk. Huxley made a speech in favor of the young man, as did also one of the professors, but the majority was opposed. The lord-rector says that he wants to know "whether the divinity classes of the Scotch universities are the exclusive property of one of the ecclesiastical bodies into which Scotland is divided, and whether the professors are to obey their church or their university?"

A new geological museum is to be founded in the University of Cambridge, as a memorial to the late Prof. Sedgwick. It will be known as the Sedgwick Museum, and is to be made in all respects an institution worthy of that eminent man. At the meeting held for the purpose of devising means for erecting this memorial, Prof. Humphry remarked "that for more than 54 years Sedgwick had expended £300 a year on the old museum." The committee charged with the work of obtaining subscriptions for the memorial are much encouraged by the receipt of numerous letters from admirers and old pupils of the deceased, who give every assurance of support.

The population of the United States (excluding Indians not taxed, and the inhabitants of the Territories) was, in 1870, 38,115,641, a gain in ten years of 6,931,897, or 22.22 per cent. The highest gain of population was shown by Kansas, 239.90 per cent.; and Minnesota came next, 155.61 per cent. Louisiana shows a gain of 2.67, and South Carolina of 0.22 per cent. The greatest loss is exhibited by New Hampshire, 2.38 per cent.; and Maine comes next, with a loss of 0.22 per cent. The total increase of the white population was 24.39, and of the colored, 9.21 per cent.

Speaking of the Jewish element is the population of Germany, Virchow says that "it has exerted a mighty influence on our progess in civilization."