Popular Science Monthly/Volume 33/September 1888/Correspondence



Editor Popular Science Monthly:

MR. GEORGE L. GUY, in his address quoted from in one of the "Notes" of the April "Popular Science Monthly," asserts that "our bookish education" does not "in any sense fit our young people to enter upon the practical duties of life."

Why should it not? If a physician be called to attend a very ill child when perhaps the nursing is most important, which will give him the greatest sense of strength—the ignorant mother blindly striving to ease present pain regardless of future consequences, or the woman accustomed to use her reason? The first perhaps can not even read the labels on his bottles, the second can take notes of all he directs and give him on his return a faithful account of what has passed during his absence.

Often a mother's daily wish is that her education had been better, that she might more easily keep pace with her sons, who demand her sympathy in their intellectual pursuits, knowing that she can not share in their rough play. There are many rainy days, times of sickness or ennui, when the boys want occupation that can satisfy their growing minds, and yet not savor too strongly of the school-room. If their mother can make history interesting from her own full knowledge, which enables her to select a good book or to embellish a rather dull one, even quite little fellows will turn from childish stories with delight to listen. Another child longs to know something of the great forces about him. Why does an engine go? What is a compass? Endless are the questions, and happy the mother who can keep her sons about her while together they find the answers. If she can draw, again there is a pleasure in the lessons she can give in odd moments, and, almost without a thought on the child's part, he finds he can use a pencil, enjoying it in untold ways. It is the same with music, with the languages, botany, and many other studies. Children can not learn all they need at school, neither can we give them too many extra hours for lessons. Their afternoons and holidays must be as free for pure play as possible; but when, owing to circumstances, that can not be had, do not let them be idle; help them to the habit of employing their minds or hands usefully. How can a mother do that, especially for boys, if she only knows how to sew, to keep a house in order, and attend to the younger children? The baby needs her care for its frail bodily life—do not the minds and souls of her older children also cry out to her?

Mrs. William F. Jenks.
Philadelphia, Pa., March 27, 1888.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

We still hear from time to time of sad examples of dogmatic utterances of the Church on subjects pertaining wholly to science. The last of these occurred only a few weeks ago at Baltimore. It seems impossible for most people to learn from experience unless the experience be personal. Only the reflective learn wisdom from history.

It is for this reason that we hail with pleasure the work before us. Its liberal spirit is as rare as its Christian fervor is deep. When clergymen have the boldness to write such books, and congregations the liberality of thought to receive such instruction, surely the traditional conflict between theology and science is nearing its end.

The writer assumes throughout the truth of evolution, and strives with great learning and eloquence to show that it does not destroy but only confirms all that is most essential in Christian belief.

We most heartily recommend the book to all truth-seekers, and especially to clergymen of all denominations.

Joseph Le Conte.
Berkeley, Cal., June 12, 1888


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

The article by Walter B. Piatt, M.D., on "The Injurious Influences of City Life," in the August "Monthly," suggests a mention of the mental and nervous irritation caused I by the petty annoyances and trespasses on individual rights constantly being inflicted by the jostling throng of a city. We are elbowed and nearly upset, our toes are trodden upon, and our sides are punched with umbrellas and market-baskets by the crowd in cars and ferry-boats, which are crowded because the corporations that own them take our money without giving us proper accommodations in return. At places of amusement, our view is cut off by persons who stand up or sit with large hats on in front of us. At home, dwellers in flats receive various disagreeable sounds and smells from their too close neighbors. In hardly any place are we secure from being pestered to buy what we do not want, or being tortured with wretched music and then asked to pay for the infliction. These things and many others of like nature produce more or less mental irritation, according to the sensitiveness of the individual, and help to make up the too great load which the nerves of city dwellers have to bear.

Still another injurious influence, more similar to those mentioned by Dr. Piatt, comes from the frequent startling by sudden noises, or the sudden appearance of danger in city streets. As Dr. Piatt pointed out, the noises of a city are legion. Many of these are so loud and abrupt as to cause a momentary fright; for instance, the crash of wagons and cars in collision, the striking and scraping of the hoofs of horses struggling for a footing on a slippery pavement, the fall of cases, barrels, iron rails, etc., being unloaded from trucks, the blasting for the foundations of buildings (in the outskirts of the city), and other noises, which, while no one may occur often, together make up a large aggregate. In addition to these startling sounds, the city dweller is continually receiving impressions of impending dauger through the eye. Among these are the causes of the noises just mentioned, if they are close at hand—the toppling wagons, the plunging horses, and the boxes of goods and pieces of building-material escaping from the hands of workmen. Also may be mentioned recklessly driven vehicles, coming upon a foot-passenger from behind at street-crossings; the sudden appearance close to one's face of a long pole, gas-pipe, or other burden carried on the shoulder of a man along a crowded sidewalk; and many similar things incidental to the compressed activity of a city. The shock to the nerve-centers which these momentary frights give, and the nervous strain which the city dweller endures from keeping a lookout for such dangers, can not fail to impair the strength of the nervous system. Through the nerves an injurious influence is exerted upon the heart also. Sudden fright, or other violent emotion, disturbs the working of the heart, and often so far arrests its action as to produce fainting, while cases of immediate death from this cause have been known. Even when the fright is not serious, the cumulative effect of being startled so often must contribute to the growing frequency with which the city dweller "breaks down but doesn't wear out."

Frederik A. Fernald.

New York, July 18, 1888.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

From time to time I have noticed theories expressed in the '* Monthly," setting forth the chief causes of baldness, such as abnormal heat from the head-cover, "constriction of the blood-vessels of the head by tight hats," by Mr. Eaton and Mr. Gouinlock. Prof. T. Wesley Mills holds that "the principal root of the trouble is in nervous strain." All these theories may have something to do with the loss of hair. I am not about to discuss these several theories, or suggest one myself, but will only endeavor to point out a few facts which may be interesting as bearing upon the subject. During several years' residence in Hong-Kong, in my professional duties I had to do with a goodly number of persons, representing a large variety of nationalities, and in my study of these people I found that many theories deduced from local experiences at home were, in some cases at least, hardly broad enough to cover all facts found at large in nature bearing upon the specific points of investigation. Familiar with some of the popular theories as to the cause of baldness, I was surprised to find men who always wore a covering to their heads, and during business hours and always when out of doors wore a very tight hat, were never bald, and possessed a wonderfully strong, thick head of hair. I refer to the Parsees (Persians). There is a sacred, religious law among them that no man shall go with his head uncovered. When the Mohammedans invaded Persia, the major part of the native Persians that were not exterminated fled farther east into India, found protection and a welcome home among the Hindoos, a people of castes, and, in order that these strangers should always be identified, also knowing that their religion obliged them to wear a head-cover, a law was passed to compel all Parsees (Persians)[2] to wear a certain style of hat whenever exposed outside of their own private home. The hat prescribed is as tall as an American silk hat with no brim; it truly might be called a "stove-pipe." This hat is worn, inclining backward on the head from thirty-five to forty degrees, and, in order to keep it on its place, the rim is made to cling very close to the head; being so tight and so constantly worn, quite a deep depression is caused substantially around the head; it seemed as if the skull might be involved, but, not having the opportunity of examining one, I was not able to fully determine. Whenever this hat is removed, a skull-cap immediately takes its place. In my professional duties, these hats often had to be removed, and it appeared to me as a curious fact—if some of the popular theories were altogether true—that these people should never be bald. Therefore, I instituted a series of strict inquiries. Many of these gentlemen spoke English intelligently, also French, German, Persian, and their local Hindoo dialect, some of whom kindly allowed an examination of their heads, and also assured me that they had never known one of their race that was bald.

G. O. Rogers.
City of Mexico, April 19, 1868.
  1. "The Unity of Truth." By Rev. Max Hark.
  2. The term Parsee (Persian) is used in contradistinction to the Mohammedan Persians, who are now habitants of the country.