Popular Science Monthly/Volume 35/September 1889/Notes


The National Geographic Society has been organized at Washington "to increase and diffuse geographical knowledge," and will hold fortnightly meetings. It projects a physical atlas of the United States, and has begun the publication of the "National Geographical Magazine." It will give prominence to the educational aspect of geographical matters, and will endeavor to stimulate interest in original sources of information. It was organized in January, 1888, has about two hundred active members, and has formed itself into five sections: those of the geography of the land; of the sea; of the air; of the geographic distribution of life; and of abstract geographic art (map-making, etc.). Mr. Gardner G. Hubbard is president, and Mr. George Kennan Washington, corresponding secretary of the society.

The British Government has yielded to popular clamor so far as to assent to a new and thorough investigation of the merits of vaccination. While assenting to this, it allows it to be given out that it sees no necessity, in any new facts that have been discovered, for such an investigation. It is suggested, in connection with a report that has been made to the effect that small-pox hospitals for isolation are a positive and deadly nuisance to those around them, that the question be also asked whether persons or communities have a right to concentrate a disease which they may easily avoid by congregating patients in such hospitals, to the serious risk of those who live outside.

Prof. Edward S. Morse has been elected a corresponding member of the Society of Ethnology, Anthropology, and Archæology, of which Prof. Rudolf Virchow is president.

The biography, papers, and letters of the late John Ericsson are to be edited by Colonel Church, of the "Army and Navy Journal." The Swedes have decided to erect a statue in Stockholm in honor of their distinguished countryman.

Hydrographer Dyer, of the Navy Departmeut, reports that testimonials are constantly received of the efficiency and usefulness of the pilot charts and supplements. The record of floating vessels affords an excellent opportunity for studying the various phases of ocean currents. The supplement is issued whenever subjects of special interest demand it. Such supplements have been sent out descriptive of West Indian hurricanes and the law of storms; on the best transatlantic routes and the winter storm belt of the Atlantic; and on water-spouts off the Atlantic coast. Reports of marine meteorology are received regularly from forty-six Government vessels and five hundred and forty-four of the mercantile marine. Many favorable reports have been received on the efficacy of oil in smoothing the waves.

A remark is made by Dr. A. G. Auld upon the strange fact that the effects of tobacco are so commonly overlooked in computing the causes of disease—for it is one of the most virulent poisons known, continually at work in the systems of those who use it, and a poison whose physical reactions have never been accurately determined. Dr. Auld is impressed that it is responsible for a variety of functional derangements which there is no reason to aver can not terminate in organic disease. Among these are albuminuria of which he has traced cases to the tobacco habit; and certain fibrillary twitchings, often excessive, that occur most frequently about the trunk and upper arms. When such symptoms are found in association with tobacco-smoking, it will not suffice merely to indulge less in the practice, but tobacco must be dispensed with entirely.

Concerning flamingoes straddling their nests, which Mr. Henry A. Blake has disputed ("Popular Science Monthly," March, 1888), Mr. E. J. Dunn, of Melbourne, has written in "Nature" that he has seen in Bushmanland numbers of the tall nests that are described and pictured in the books. They are conical, about eighteen inches high and six inches in diameter at the top, with a shallow, basin-like cavity for the eggs, were built in the water where it was a few inches deep, and could not have been sat upon unless they were straddled over.

The London Diocesan Conference has suggested legal measures to meet the evil of too early marriages, and Dr. Matthews Duncan asserts that the age at which marriage takes place is one of the most important factors in the matter of defects of the reproductive function. He believes that fertility is surest and safest, and most happy in its results, at between twenty and twenty-five years in women, and twenty-five and thirty years in men; and regards the conditions as more precarious at an earlier than at a later age. The social and economical conditions are also not to be overlooked.

Dr. Batty Tuke insists upon the importance of giving more attention to efforts to cure insanity. This thought has been subordinated under the operation of the asylum system, which was begun for protection rather than cure, and of the theory of the psychological nature of insanity. The London County Council has now before it a proposition to appoint a committee to inquire concerning the expediency of complementing the existing system of treatment with a hospital and medical staff having a curative course in view.

A remark in the report of Principal Bliss, of the Detroit High School, on overwork, touches what is incontestably one of the weak points of the public schools. It should be remembered, he says, "that overwork is a continued rush. Our classes are large and our recitation periods short. The good of a class can not be sacrificed for that of an individual. In the hurry of our daily work, some boy or girl who is not strong enough to do our work may be overlooked. Have the public schools so far assumed the duties of parents that parents can be excused for not calling our attention to such a case?"

After twelve years of experimental work at Rothamsted, Dr. Gilbert has found the old views confirmed respecting the value of a due apportionment of nitrogenous and mineral substance in the cultivation of potatoes. The present practices of good farmers with barn-yard manures are sustained, while mineral manures alone are of little effect. Although liberal manuring increases the tendency to disease, the effect is thought to be offset by the advantage of a heavy crop. The continuous growth of potatoes in the same land does not appear to render the crop more liable to disease, but rather the reverse. Thus, during three periods, of four years each, the percentage of disease in the various plots was reduced successively from 5·14-12·82 to 1·63-4·95, and 1·43-1·73.

A biological survey of Kansas is in progress, under the direction of members of Washburn College, the eighth report of which is given in the Bulletin of the Laboratory of Natural History. It includes a fourth series of notes on fishes, by Dr. C. H. Gilbert, and Mr. B. B. Smyth's catalogue of flowering plants and ferns, in which 1,602 species and varieties are named.

Porous rebaked porcelain has been found by Dr. C. G. Currier to be the best substance for domestic filters. If thick and strong enough to allow the use of a large surface, and the substance remains perfect, it may yield a fair flow of clear water, free from all bacteria; yet under the ordinary Croton pressure, the yield is only in rapid drops, unless the apparatus be complex. The filter should be occasionally sterilized throughout, by steaming or other means.

Dr. Ogle, an English statistician, while admitting to the full extent alleged the movement, in England and the United States, toward the towns and cities, denies that it is attended by a depopulation of the rural districts. He has found that the rural population in England did not decrease between 1851 and 1881 by more than one percent, a rate quite within the limit of allowance for error. The author believes that the rural population is only stationary, and is ample, with the modern improvements in farming, for the tillage of the land, while only its increase and surplus pour into the towns; but the continuous migration of the most vigorous and energetic to the manufacturing districts, and the higher mortality there, may be producing a gradual deterioration.

While asserting that attention has hitherto been largely paid to the preservation of the unfit members of society by not allowing them to disappear according to natural causes, and thus propagating unfitness. Dr. Thomas Searcy, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., suggests that a higher field of effort lies in the direction of increasing the proportionate numbers in society of the more fit. Apparently, in modern society, the object of effort is to reach such a degree of competency that one's children will not have to strive. Degeneracy then sets in. The first generation may succeed by force of the brain-power transmitted from its parents, but the after-generations have no bottom to stand upon.

In a recent lecture on the education of girls, Mr. James Oliphant condemned the impression that the education of the two sexes should be governed by the same rule. Physical deterioration, he said, could best be prevented by a suitable distribution of studies during the day, and by allowing hourly short interludes of muscular exercise. There was, in our modern plan of study, too much reiteration and too little thought, a consequent sense of drudgery, and a lack of the interest which comes of using the reasoning power. Home lesson work had become a sort of tyranny. The possession of special aptitudes did not justify the preference often given to them in cultivation, at the expense of less developed faculties.

In the lack of any national registry of vital statistics, the Superintendent of the Census of 1890 will rely upon the physicians to furnish an approximate estimate of the birth and death rates of most of the country. He is accordingly issuing to the medical profession "Physicians' Registers," with blanks, which they are invited to fill, and thus furnish more accurate returns than it is possible for the enumerators to make. In order that the returns of farm products and live stock may be as full and complete as possible, farmers are requested to keep accounts of such matters from June 1, 1889, to May 31, 1890.

The demand for its leather, which is so pleasant for summer shoes, has brought the kangaroo into imminent danger of extinction; and the Australians are contemplating measures for restricting the slaughter of the animal.

Dr. Koch's theories respecting the functions and work of the cholera bacillus, which have been disputed, and even discredited by certain commissions, have now been confirmed in their most important points by the researches of Drs. Neil Macleod and Milles. These gentlemen, who practice in a part of the British Empire where cholera is endemic, have identified, isolated, and cultivated Koch's spirillum, and confirm his original statement as to its pathogenic character.

Out of more than five hundred letters received by the Principal of the Detroit High School in answer to questions concerning the effect of the studies on the health of the children, 87·81 per cent sustain the work of the school. The sixty-two complaints are of various character, and refer among other things to "hard studies," bad air, long lessons, and worry. In fourteen of the cases of complaint the pupils were doing more than the regular work; and requests to be allowed to do this had in some instances followed complaints.

According to Dr. Ozeretskofski, hysteria exists among Russian soldiers, and presents as various diversities of form as it does among women.