Popular Science Monthly/Volume 34/March 1889/Correspondence



Editor Popular Science Monthly

MY object in writing to you on November 1, 1888, was, as I then stated, to call the attention of Prof. Shaler to the error into which he had fallen in attributing to the gopher (a tortoise) the habits of the salamander (Geomys pinetis), a small rodent. I did not expect my remarks to be published by you, but I did expect Prof. Shaler, as of his own motion, to make through your pages some explanation or acknowledgment of his blunder; and had you been content to simply print my note in your January number, I should not now feel called upon to make further reference to the subject. The only inference to be drawn from your editorial comments upon my note is that you have not read Prof. Shaler's article on the "Habits of the Great Southern Tortoise," which appears in your journal for November, 1888, and to which my note refers! The question is not, as you appear to suppose, which animal, the gopher or the salamander, produces the greater effect upon the soil of Florida. What I wish to point out is the fact that a reputed scientist has published in a scientific journal an article which ascribes to one animal habits which are impossible to it and which belong to a totally different animal. He then proceeds to speculate, from these false premises, as to "the limits of evolution under the influence of natural selection"; and, naturally enough, in his efforts to reconcile the irreconcilable, finds himself reduced to the necessity of "begging the question." He would have saved himself all this trouble and perplexity if, in describing the habits of the animal, he had written salamander wherever the word gopher now appears in his paper.

Very respectfully,C. C. Byrne,
Surgeon United States Army.
Washington, D.C., January 4, 1889.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: I see that you too have copied that "bees and pigeon race hoax," in your notes on page 287 of the December number, when "twelve bees, having been rolled in flour to mark them, and twelve pigeons belonging to a fancier in the village, were let loose about a league away. The first bee reached home a quarter of a minute before the first pigeon, and the rest of both squads arrived at the same instant, a few moments afterward." This is a canard. Take bees three miles from home and liberate them, and they will rise and circle round. the place where they find themselves till they mark the location; then they will fly away in search of food, and, when they are loaded, will return to the spot they left, not to their old home, three miles or so away.

Respectfully yours,
Mahala B. Chaddock.
Vermont, Ill., January 10, 1889.

[The item in question was translated from "La Nature," of September 8, 1888; a journal that is not usually careless in scientific matters.—Ed.]