Popular Science Monthly/Volume 30/January 1887/Correspondence



Messrs. Editors:

WILL you kindly allow me a few lines of your valuable space in the correspondence column of the "Monthly" tor the purpose of correcting an error which you have made in noticing my memoir on "A Navajo Skull," on page 279 of the December (1886) issue of your journal, as well as to make a few comments thereon?

You have ascribed the authorship of my monograph on the Navajo skull to no less an eminent biologist and anthropologist than Sir William Turner, F.R.S., and, as much as I feel honored by your oversight, it had better perhaps be corrected to stand otherwise. Dr. Turner, indeed, is the author of the valuable "Additional Note on the Navajo Skull," which you properly attribute to him. It supplements my memoir and adds thereto information which, owing to my far removal from the literature of such subjects, I could not supply. Dr. Turner kindly rounded off my work for me, and both papers appeared together in the "Journal of Anatomy." He subsequently sent me a few "reprints" of his note, and I sent you a copy, so that you would have the case complete before you.

The only point that you call attention to in your December notice of the memoir in question is, that It relates "to the examination of the skull of a Navajo Indian of about forty years of age, who came to his death by a gunshot-wound of the head." As true as this undoubtedly is, and as common as such specimens are (dead from such a cause I) on the plains of New Mexico, I must believe you have quite overlooked the two important points I endeavored to bring out in the paper. The minor point which I invite attention to is. that the specimen exhibits a wonderfully interesting example of that rare injury, the result of certain gunshot-wounds known to surgeons as "fracture by contrecoup."

But the main object of the memoir is widely removed from this and completely ignored by yourselves. From the data furnished by the Otis "Catalogue of Crania," in the Army Medical Museum, I was enabled to present, for the average male Navajo's skull, the cranial capacity, the facial angle, the length, the zygomatic diameter, etc.; and I further tabulated this information in such a way that it became presentable for comparison. I then carefully compared the skull before me with it, and pointed out how it diverged from the average measurements as given in the previous data. The plate illustrates the skull seen from the four principal views, and I take this occasion to thank my engravers for the exceedingly handsome lithograph they succeeded in obtaining from my original drawings. The "Journal of Anatomy" has kindly published for me since a similar paper (illustrated), devoted to a like comparative examination of the leading characteristics of the skull among Navajo children.

It stands to reason that to devote a handsome plate and the valuable space in the "Journal of Anatomy" simply to the examination of a single Indian skull, however meritorious it might be made, would hardly be tolerated; whereas the comparative examination of the data brought out through a study of the characteristics of the different tribes of our North American Indians is a subject which I deem to be one of no little importance.

R. W. Shufeldt.
Fort Wingate, New Mexico,
November 27, 1886.

[The confusion of authorship to which attention is called in the above letter, is the result of the substitution of a period where there should have been a comma, after the word "same." Punctuated as it was intended, the list of pamphlets in the heading of the notice will read as belonging primarily to Dr. Shufeldt, as it should read. The rest of the authors criticism is directed to the fact that we omitted to mention the technical bearings of his observations. Technical details are not within the scope of the "Monthly," and the discussion of them would be appreciated by but a small proportion of its readers.—Editor.]


Messrs. Editors;

That many insects have decided odors of their own is known to all who have ever taken the slightest interest in that class of the animal kingdom. Some of them are well known to others, even, who take no such interest—to wit, that of the bed-bug (Cimex lectularius). Many have a pleasant, musky smell, and others a very intense, disagreeable, or disgusting odor. Among the latter is one of the largest of the American Coleoptera—the Dynastes tytius of entomologists. The insect is two inches or more in length, an inch wide, and stout in proportion, of a pale-greenish color, with black spots. In the male the thorax is furnished with a long horn, and with two smaller horns at the base of the large one. On the head is another short, upright, pointed horn, giving the insect a very formidable appearance. This insect has a very strong and lasting odor, comparable to that of tobacco steeped in acetic acid. A single specimen placed in a large room will saturate the atmosphere in a single night, and be perceptible for days thereafter. In the larval state this insect resembles an immense "white grub," in form and structure, but is greenish in color. In this stage it feeds on decaying wood. In the vicinity of Memphis, Tennessee, are thousands of stumps of trees cut some ten years since, and now in just the right stage of decay for this larva. As a consequence, the insect has increased to such an extent as to become literally a nuisance. In the month of June or July an intense disagreeable odor was noticed in some outlying sections of the city, becoming stronger in the evening. The board of Health took action in the matter, drained a few pools, disinfected other unsavory substances, but produced no effects on the odors. Various speculations were rife in the newspapers as to the cause and effect of the odors, until, finally, a correspondent of the "Memphis Avalanche" solved the mystery by finding large numbers of this insect, which were straightway sent off for determination. Later in the season complaints came from Western Virginia of similar foul smells. Here the health officers made war on the pig-pens, without avail, of course, and here, also, in due season, the source of the smell was discovered in this beetle.

The curious part of the matter is, that this insect has been considered not a common one by entomologists, and now it appears in the light of a pest of a quite novel order, polluting the air so as to become a positive nuisance. Whether the odor is at all injurious to health, I can not say. It will cause squeamishness in sensitive individuals, but it will hardly do more. The remedy is, of course, obvious—remove the stumps, and the source of supply is gone; more than this, the stumps remain in condition for the larvæ for a brief period only, and another year or two will see the end of this peculiar nuisance, unless the supply of stumps or logs is kept up.

John B. Smith.
U.S. Nat'l Museum, Washington, D.C.
September 9, 1886.