Popular Science Monthly/Volume 30/January 1887/Notes


T. Egleston, in a paper on the causes of decay affecting building-stones, especially mentions such causes as depend on the removal of an ingredient by decay or decomposition. He observes that dolomitic limestones, which in some regions, in the case both of the native ledges and of monuments, crumble to sand, owe their disintegration to the fact that they are to a large extent mixtures of true dolomite and limestone; and that the limestone, the most soluble portion, is dissolved and removed by percolated carbonated waters.

A tunnel is projected, to be bored under Gray's Peak, in the Rocky Mountains. It will be placed 4,441 feet below the summit of the mountain, will be 26,000 feet long, and will give direct communication between the valleys in the Atlantic slope and those of the Pacific side, with a shortening of some three hundred miles in the transmontane distances.

Dr. p. H. Dudley recently described to the American Institute of Mining Engineers two cast-iron car-wheels which a chemical examination had shown to be almost precisely the same in composition, but one of which was good, while the other was nearly worth-less, for its purpose. From this, it appears that the value of articles of iron and steel is largely dependent on other conditions than that of mere chemical composition. Mr.F.L. Garrison has found the microscope a very useful test for determining the qualities of metals, through the revelations which it affords of the arrangement of their particles and their structure.

The British Association's committee to observe the migration of birds has learned that birds on their arrival at the British Isles, as a rule, avoid high cliffs, and prefer to enter river-valleys, whence they spread gradually over the area embraced by the river's tributaries.

Mr.E.W. Bucke has determined by soundings the depth of the tubes of several geysers of the Rotorua district, New Zealand. In the case of the extinct geyser of Te Waro, he was let down the tube. At thirteen feet below the surface it opened into a chamber fifteen feet long, eight feet broad, and nine feet high, from one end of which another tube led downward to an undetermined depth. The author was satisfied, from his intercourse with the natives of the district, that by constant observations on the direction of the wind and the condition of the atmosphere, they had learned to prognosticate the movements in all these hot springs with wonderful accuracy. He had also observed during his residence that the geysers were in eruption only when the wind blew from a particular quarter,

Mr.Robert Capper proposed, in the British Association, a railway to connect the heart of Africa with London in ten days, as "a feat worthy of the age we live in." He would advocate the building of a railway from the two rivers Niger and Congo toward each other, and north and south at the rate of a mile a day, to form a spine through the continent. It would give the missionaries and traders two sides to work from, instead of one, as now.

"Weeds are plants in the wrong place. They all probably have their right places and their uses somewhere in Nature's economy, though these are sometimes hard to appreciate. The most of them may serve to keep some desolate spot from being entiely bare, and the decay of their repeated generations furnishes mold to the ground, and may in time make it fit to bear something better. They all, too, have elements of beauty, and these will reveal themselves to every one who diligently searches for them. Many of them, if they were not weeds, would be prized as choice flowers, and some of them have been such.

Commenting on the vital statistics of one of the parishes of London, Dr. Meymott Tidy calls attention to the fact that the death-rate of England is decreasing, and that 150 people are added yearly to every 10,000 of the population. From this he prognosticates that at the present rate of increase the population of the country twenty generations hence will be 27,200,000,000, or enough, if distributed no more densely than the present population, to fill twenty earths. From 5,000,000 in the reign of Henry VIII, the population of England rose to about 7,500,000 in the early part of the reign of George III, and then, under the impulse of a long period of commercial prosperity, to 16,000,000 at the time of the repeal of the com laws. Now, 24,000,000 people are housed and fed in England and Wales, and depend on other countries for half of their food. Dr. Tidy regards the present increasing population and declining trade as serious facts.

Dr.J.Burney Yeo mentions, as among the special applications which are made of the waters of the mineral springs of Continental Europe, the treatment of biliary obstructions and the plethoric forms of gout, at Carlsbad; of atonic gout, at Rogat; of calculous disorders, at Vichy and Contrexéville; of chronic articular rheumatism and gout, at Aix-les-Bains; of diabetes, at Neuenahr and Carlsbad; of obesity, at Marienbad; of gouty and catarrhal dyspepsia, at Hamburg and Kissingen; of anaemia, at Schwalbach and St. Moritz; of asthma, at Mont Dore; of throat affections, at Cauterets and Eaux-Bonnes; of scrofulous glandular affections, at Kreuznach; and of the great variety of chronic skin affections, at Aix-la-Chapelle, Cannstadt, La Bourbole, and Uriage.

Describing, in the British Association, his optical studies in the essential oils, Dr. Gladstone, after explaining how the refractive equivalent of an organic compound may be used to determine its constitution, pointed out that the dispersive equivalents can be similarly used. He also discussed the refraction and dispersion equivalents of the turpenes, citrenes, camphor, and some other members of the group of essential oils, and showed how their values are of service in determining the constitution of those bodies.

H.R.Mill has determined the salinity of the water from point to point in the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth. The distribution of salinity in the Firth of Forth is constant all the year round, while periodical variations are observed through the whole mass of the water in the Firth of Clyde. It is evident that in the Forth River entrance, a mixture of river-and sea-water takes place by a true process of diffusion, and a constant gradient is maintained from river to sea. The dissolved matter of fresher water was found richer than sea-water in calcium carbonate.

The "Revue Scientifique" claims the first thought of the germ theory of disease for a Dr. Goiffon, who died at Lyons more than one hundred and fifty years ago. He believed, in 1721, that diseases like the plague could be caused only by minute insects or worms, too small to be seen, perhaps, but nevertheless really existing. He also believed that the conveyance of infection could be explained by their activity and propagation.

An observatory is in building at Sonnblick, in the Tyrolese Alps, ten thousand feet above the sea, which will be the highest of the kind in Europe. The mountain is relatively easy of access, with mines halfway up its slopes, and a wire rope-way in operation leading up to them. The observatory will be in telephonic communication with the mines, and thence in telegraphic communication with whatever spot it may be desirable to reach.

Professor Odling has described a process in which benzoic acid, when heated in sealed tubes at about 260° with an aqueous solution of zinc chloride, is decomposed, and yields chiefly benzene, together with a small quantity of diphenyle.


Mr.Eli Whitney Blake, the inventor of the Blake stone-crusher, who recently died at his home in New Haven, Connecticut, was the founder of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, and for several years its president. He communicated several papers to the "American Journal of Science" and other scientific publications; and a number of these were published together in 1882, under the title of "Original Solutions of several Problems in Aërodynamics." His stone-crusher is in nearly universal use.

Professor H.A.Batne, Ph.D., of the Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario, has recently died. He was a student under Liebig, Bunsen, and Dumas.

Herrmann Abich, an eminent Austrian geologist, died on the 1st of July, nearly seventy years of age. He began his scientific career in 1831 by the publication of a memoir on the minerals of the Spinel family. At a later period he devoted special attention to the phenomena of volcanic action; he published an atlas of views of Vesuvius and Etna in 1837, and a work on volcanic formations in 1841. He investigated the Caucasus region and Southeastern Europe, and was, at the time of his death, superintending the publication of the "Geologische Forschungen in den kaukasischen Ländern," his greatest work.

The death is reported of M. Ernest Desjardins, professor in the College de France, aged eighty-three years. His principal labors were upon problems of comparative geography, in which missions executed by him in Egypt, Italy, and the basin of the Danube, led to interesting discoveries. His most important publications were on the topography of Latium, the ancient geography of Italy, and the geography of ancient Gaul.

Alessandro Dorna, Director of the Astronomical Observatory at Turin, died in August last, aged sixty-one years.

M.Paul Bert, the eminent French physiologist, died in Tonquin, where he occupied the position of French resident in Annam and Cochin-China, on the 11th of November. He had held professorships at Bordeaux and Paris; was elected to the National Assembly in 1874; was an elBcient Minister of Public Instruction in Gambetta's Cabinet; and was a pleasing writer on scientific and educational subjects.

Professor Frederick Settle Barff, inventor of the Barff process for preventing the corrosion of iron and of an antiseptic compound, died on the 11th of August, aged sixty-two years. The record of his life is one of useful investigation and invention. He delivered at different times "Cantor Lectures" of the Society of Arts on "Artistic Colors and Pigments," "Silicates, Silicides. Glass, and Glass-Painting," and "Carbon, and Certain Compounds of Carbon, treated principally in reference to Heating and Illuminating Purposes"; also juvenile lectures, for 1878, on "Coal and its Compounds." He was awarded the Society's medal for a paper on "Zinc-White as Paint, and the Treatment of Iron for the Prevention of Corrosion," and a second medal for his paper on "A New Antiseptic Compound." He held the positions of Assistant Professor of Chemistry at University College, London, Examiner in Chemistry for the Natural Science Tripos, Cambridge, and Professor of Chemistry at the Catholic University at Kensington, and in the Jesuits' College, Beaumont.

Dr.John P.Gray, Superintendent of the New York Lunatic Asylum, died in Utica, November 29th, of Bright's disease, aged sixty-one years. After having been assistant physician at the lunatic asylum for several years, he was appointed its superintendent in 1854. He was regarded as one of the foremost experts in insanity in the United States.

Professor Pancm, the great Danish physiologist, has recently died in Copenhagen, in the sixty-fifth year of his age.