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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 4/November 1873/Literary Notices

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 4‎ | November 1873


The Philosophy of Evolution. (An Actonian Prize Essay.) By B. Thompson Lowne, M. R. C. S., F. L. S. London, John Van Voorst.

hannah acton, relict of Samuel, had opinions. In this there was certainly nothing remarkable, but she had also that which gives dignity and power to opinion, that is, money to back it. Ideas amount to very little until incarnated, and then they acquire an immense and lasting influence. A narrow-minded blockhead may cherish views that nobody regards as worth listening to, but if he puts a few hundred thousand dollars behind them, and founds a college for carrying them out, they suddenly rise into respectability, and are made potential for generations. Our friend Hannah had a notion that there prevails a very low estimate of the wisdom and goodness of the Creator of the universe, and she was willing to spend money to raise the standard, so she placed a thousand pounds of good solid investments in the hands of a committee of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, to appropriate the interest, every seven years, in the shape of a prize of one hundred guineas, for the best essay, "illustrative of the wisdom and beneficence of the Almighty, in such department of science as the committee should select," leaving it to their discretion to withhold the reward if none of the essays produced were thought worthy of it. Seven years ago, the solar radiations—certainly a magnificent subject—was proposed for a prize; but, as nothing appeared upon that theme which would to any extent promote the donor's intention, the money was not granted. So the funds accumulated, and this year two prizes were offered, one of them for the best essay on the "Law of Evolution, as illustrating the Wisdom and Beneficence of the Almighty," and B. Thompson Lowne got the golden prize for writing the little book before us. The fact is notable as showing the advance of thought, for no transformation suggested by the evolutionists as taking place among the lower animals is more surprising than that transformation of opinion in the scientific world that has made such an award as this possible; and, if Aunt Hannah had been as prophetic as she was devout, and scented afar the use that would be made of her money, it is questionable if the Royal Institution would ever have got a shilling of it. As for the book itself, it is but a sorry performance. It has been sagely remarked, concerning prize sheep and prize essays, that the former are useful only for making candles, and the latter for lighting them; and the observation is as true of Mr. Lowne's book as of the class to which it belongs, for it is certainly the poorest piece of work upon the subject that we have yet seen. Most contributions to this question are inspired by such an interest in it as to enforce study and secure some merit; but this contribution has obviously been made for a hundred guineas. Literary labor need not be necessarily bad because it is paid for, but prize essays are an open appeal to mercenary motives, and are apt to attract those who are mainly influenced by them. Mr. Lowne undoubtedly knows something of his subject, but he neither contributes any thing to its original thought, nor, what was equally needed, has he given us a clear and full popular representation of it. The book which shall perform that office remains yet to be written.

Elements of Physical Manipulation. By Edward C. Pickering, Thayer Professor of Physics in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 8vo. 225 pages, price, $3.00. New York: Hurd & Houghton.

there are hopeful signs that the despotic rule of the verbal system in education has had its day, and must lose its supremacy in future exactly in the ratio of the advance of thorough scientific education. Nothing can be more futile than the mere verbal teaching of physical laws, when it is possible, by the performance of simple experiments, to bring their operation directly before the student's mind. It is quite as preposterous as the prevailing habit of learning the descriptive and observational sciences by memorizing the statements of books rather than by the direct study of the objects themselves. That nine-tenths of the school-study of science is at present an unmitigated educational sham but few will deny, and what is now wanted is less an increase in the amount of scientific study than a radical amendment of its method. This want is widely felt, and is beginning to be efficiently supplied. Botanical and zoological text-books are becoming more and more guides to Nature, and there is springing up a separate literature of working processes in the experimental sciences. Treatises on manipulation have long been standard necessities in chemical laboratories, and they are now recognized as of equal importance in laboratories devoted to other departments of experimental science. The admirable volume of Drs. Burden-Sanderson and Michael Foster, on "The Processes and Manipulations of the Physiological Laboratory," is a recent English contribution in this direction; and the "Introduction to Physical Measurements," by Dr. F. Kohlrausch, of Darmstadt, the translation of which has just been issued by Churchill, of London, is a valuable volume of the same kind. Prof. Pickering's new book, however, is now by far the best guide that we have for the practical teaching of natural philosophy. Assuming that the instruments are in the hands of the student, it shows him precisely how to use them, what precautions to take, and what errors to avoid. "It is intended as a hand-book for teachers, for the large class of amateurs who devote their leisure to some branch of physical inquiry, and more particularly as a text-book for the physical laboratories now introduced so generally in all our larger colleges and scientific schools.

"It is hoped that it may also aid the introduction of the laboratory system into the high-schools and academies, as many of the experiments are simple enough to be performed there, and, at the same time, the kind of apparatus described is such that it can be made at very small expense."

The preliminary chapter is devoted to general methods of investigation and the more common applications of the mathematics to the discussion of results, and a short description is also given of the various methods of measuring distances, time, and weights, which, in fact, form the basis of all physical investigation. The remainder of the volume is occupied with a series of experiments upon the following general topics: the mechanics of solids, the mechanics of liquids and gases, and the phenomena of sound and light. The work is written in a clear style, is neatly and fully illustrated, and is the result of four years' practical experience in the physical laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is gracefully dedicated to Prof. William B. Rogers, the founder of that institution, "as the first to propose a physical laboratory." The rapid spread of the laboratory system of teaching physics in the higher schools of this country will open a wide field of usefulness for Prof. Pickering's excellent text-book.

Civilization considered as a Science. By George Harris, F. S. A. 382 pages. Price, $1.50. D. Appleton & Co.

although the author of this volume is a lawyer, and is disposed to consider his subject very much in the light of his professional studies, that is, from the standpoint of the moral sciences, yet he accepts the broader view which regards civilization as part of the order of Nature, and as, therefore, dependent upon many sciences for its interpretation. His aim, however, is not purely scientific, that is, to analyze and generalize the phenomena of civilization; but, recognizing the government of natural law, he rather attempts a practical discussion of those agencies of civil and social advancement which are most perfectly under public control. He writes with a view to the improvement of society, rather than to the understanding or explanation of it, and his book would have been more completely described by the title "Civilization considered as a Science and an Art." Mr. Harris first inquires into the essential constitution of civilization, to determine what are its factors or the various forces and instrumentalities that have coöperated in its development. Individual enterprise, scientific discoveries and inventions, education, legislation, internal and external intercourse, religious institutions, language and literature, and racial, climatic, and geographical conditions, are all enumerated as elements of the grand result, while the various values of these several elements are considered in the successive chapters of the book. The present work is a new and revised edition of a volume that appeared several years ago. The result of his progressive studies has been, materially to modify the author's opinions on points at first held to be all-important. He at first considered that legislative measures, expressly adapted for the purpose, are the main means by which civilization has been promoted; but a careful examination of the subject soon sufficed to correct this error. The subtler and more pervasive influence of education was next fixed upon as "constituting the real efficient cause, if not the actual essence of civilization." But further inquiry convinced the author that here also he was so profoundly wrong that he regards the refutation of this fallacy as the main purpose of his work. He says: "Upon taking a comprehensive view of the whole matter, in all its different bearings, and with regard to all its varied requirements, the ultimate conclusion which I arrived at was, that which is not only really needed, but what is, in fact, in many cases, actually intended in the demands for the intellectual and moral improvement and advancement of the nation, is not education merely, but civilization generally. This principle, which has not been adopted without the fullest deliberation and the sincerest conviction of its truth, is the basis of the doctrine propounded in the following pages, and its recognition is deemed of the utmost consequence to the well-being of society. Education is, in fact, so to speak, one only out of several of the chains by which the car of civilization is drawn onward. By applying to this one alone, not only is the machine moved very feebly and very slowly, but there is considerable danger incurred of snapping the single chain."

Mr. Harris puts forth no claim to the discovery or extension of the scientific theory of civilization, but his book contains much information and many important suggestions upon the subject.

The Logic of Accounts; a New Exposition of the Theory and Practice of Double-Entry Book-keeping. By E. G. Folsom, A. M. Price $2.00. A. S. Barnes & Co.

there are two kinds of school-books upon the same subjects. One is written from the art point of view, and the other from that of science; one deals with rules and rote, and the other with principles; one narrows, the other widens; one makes of a student a good machine, the other an educated thinker. Mr. Folsom's book-keeping is to be commended on broad educational grounds, as it presents the subject in its logical and scientific form, suitable for liberal mental training. The difficulty with book-keeping, as with arithmetic, is that, under pressure of the utilitarian spirit, they are degraded into mere blind mechanical operations, acquired as a kind of dexterity, and solely with a view to business. Bookkeeping is commonly learned in much the same way as the management of the sewing-machine, and to little better purpose, so far as mental cultivation is concerned. Mr. Folsom aims to redeem the study to its higher uses by treating it as a science of values and exchanges, which depends upon reasons and laws. While making due provision for the practice of the art, his constant method is to keep in view the principles which should guide the student's thinking. A work like this, pursued thoughtfully and thoroughly, in its philosophic spirit, will afford the most valuable preparation for studying the science of political economy, which treats of the laws of value and exchange as affecting communities and nations on the largest scale.

Antiquities of the Southern Indians, particularly of the Georgia Tribes. By Charles C. Jones, Jr. Large octavo, 532 pages, illustrated with Thirty-one Plates, and several Woodcuts. Price $6.00. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1873.

we have before briefly noticed this valuable contribution to American archæology, and now proceed to give our readers a further account of it, as, since the publication of the "Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley," no work has been written upon this subject so minute in its details, so careful in statement, and so extended in its observations. Although the antiquities of Georgia claim the author's particular attention, he presents an intelligent and comprehensive view of the ancient monuments and aboriginal relics of that portion of the territory of the United States which is bounded on the north by Kentucky and the upper limits of Virginia, on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the south by the Gulf of Mexico, and on the west by the Mississippi River. The field of research—which is manifestly one of great interest, abounding with relics of unusual variety, symmetry, and beauty—has hitherto been but feebly explored. Here, in ancient times, dwelt peoples who apparently occupied a middle position in the scale of semi-civilization; influenced, on the one hand, to a greater or less degree, by those ideas which in Mexico and Central America culminated in such complex and elaborate developments, and, on the other, sympathizing with and sharing in those ruder expressions characteristic of Western hunter tribes and their more northern neighbors.

"Our object has been," says the author in his preface, "from the earliest and most authentic sources of information at command, to convey a correct impression of the location, characteristics, form of government, social relations, manufactures, domestic economy, diversions, and customs of the Southern Indians, at the time of primal contact between them and the Europeans. This introductory part of the work is followed by an examination of tumuli, earthworks, and various relics, obtained from burial-mounds, gathered amid refuse-piles, found in ancient graves, and picked up in cultivated fields and on the sites of old villages and fishing-resorts. Whenever these could be interpreted in the light of early-recorded observations, or were capable of explanation by customs not obsolete at the dawn of the historic period, the authorities relied upon have been carefully noted."

In the first four chapters we are made acquainted with the political, social, and industrial status of the Southern Indians, as disclosed by the narratives of the Spanish expeditions, and portrayed in the accounts of the early voyagers. The five succeeding chapters are devoted to a history of mound-building, and to a description of various groups of mounds with their attendant inclosures and fish-preserves. Among these ancient tumuli, antedating the period of European colonization, are mentioned and classified temple-mounds, terraced mounds, truncated pyramids, mounds of observation and retreat, chieftain-mounds, family or tribal mounds, shell mounds, stone tumuli, and single graves. In this region there is a remarkable absence of megalithic monuments and animal-shaped mounds. The presence of rock-walls, embankments, and defensive inclosures, is noted; and, in connection with the grave-mounds, cremation and sundry funeral customs are alluded to and discussed. The plans of these prominent indications of early constructive skill are based upon original surveys, and the impressions conveyed of the monuments themselves are derived from the personal observations of the writer. The author does not concur in the opinion, so often expressed, that "the mound-builders were a race distinct from, and superior in art, government, and religion to, the Southern Indians of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries." His reasons are fairly and cogently stated, and it is shown that the practice of sepulchral mound-building, and the construction of elevated spaces for chieftain-lodges and council-houses, were perpetuated within the historic period. In accounting for the marked decadence in industry, combined labor, craft and power which characterized these peoples in the eighteenth century, when their condition is contrasted with that of their ancestors, two centuries before, it is suggested that "the inroads of the Spaniards violently shocked this primitive population, imparting new ideas, interrupting established customs, overturning acknowledged government, impoverishing whole districts, engendering a sense of insecurity until that time unknown, causing marked changes, and entailing losses and demoralizations perhaps far more potent than we are inclined, at first thought, to believe."

Extended reference is made to the location and contents of refuse-piles and shell-heaps—objects which have of late attracted so much attention in many parts of the world, indicating, as they do, the resorts of primitive peoples, furnishing evidence of the food upon which they subsisted, and revealing the implements and utensils upon which they relied for daily use.

Stone-graves and the use of copper are treated of in the tenth chapter. Plate VI.—in which are figured the relics found in a stone-grave in Nacoochee Valley—possesses unusual beauty, and conveys an emphatic idea of the commercial relations existing among the North American tribes. From this grave were taken a laminated copper axe, which had probably been obtained from the shores of Lake Superior, a cassio flammea, from the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic coast, the remnant of a basket made of a reed not native to the valley, and stone implements laboriously constructed of materials brought from a distance. All these were once the property of a single individual.

In the chapters upon arrow and spear heads—grooved, wedge-shaped, perforated, and ceremonial axes—cutting, piercing, smoothing, scraping, and agricultural implements—the author enters upon a well-considered analysis of the characteristics of the prevailing types, and accompanies his illustrations with descriptions and suggestions indicative of extensive research and accurate archæological knowledge.

In the fourteenth chapter we are made acquainted with the different methods adopted by the Southern Indians for the capture of fish. Grooved, notched, and perforated net-sinkers and plummets are figured. The chung-kee game—that famous game of the North American Indians, to which they were so passionately addicted that, when all private property had been gambled away, the desperate players hazarded even their personal liberty upon the final throw—is next considered; and, in this connection, numerous discoidal stones are shown. The limits of this review do not permit us to dwell upon the use of stone tubes in connection with the arts of the medicine-man and the conjurer, as explained by the author, or to enumerate seriatim the matters treated of in this entertaining and instructive volume. We commend, as worthy of careful study, the chapters upon pipes (which are considered under the three classes of idol-pipes, calumets, and common pipes), on idols and image-worship, and upon pottery. The Etowah idol, figured at page 432, is perhaps the most notable ancient stone image which has yet been found in association with Indian relics north and east of Mexico. Much historical information has been collected concerning the primitive uses of tobacco and the office of the peace-pipe. In plate XXIII the typical forms of the calumets and bird-shaped pipes are given. The manufacture of ancient pottery is fully considered; and, in the accompanying plates, the prevailing forms of terra-cotta vessels, and the different styles of ornamentation, are beautifully portrayed. The use of pearls as ornaments is made the subject of an independent chapter. It is curious to observe what an important part these little glistening beads played among the ornament-loving peoples of this semitropical region. The work concludes with an examination of the primitive employment of shells as ornaments, implements, and as a recognized medium of exchange.

It will be observed that nearly every chapter in this work forms an independent essay, complete in itself, and elaborate of its kind. The originality of the work, both as regards its general plan and the manner of its execution, will be at once remarked. The freshness and vigor of the illustrations are admirable. The typical objects represented have never been figured before, the originals, or nearly all of them, forming part of the author's collection, and most of them having been obtained by him in situ. Accurate pen-drawings were first made under his personal supervision and then these were reproduced by the photo-lithographic process—all errors of transfer by an engraver being thus avoided. As a necessary consequence, these illustrations are unusually correct. They possess an individuality which is very attractive. In grouping the objects selected for illustration, marked taste has been displayed. The plan of the work we regard as natural and judicious. In that portion of North America constituting the field of these archæological researches we have only a stone age. Here and there copper implements and ornaments appear, but that material in its manufacture was regarded and treated by the primitive workmen not as a metal capable of being moulded under the influence of heat, but simply as a malleable stone. Chipped and ground stone implements are found in juxtaposition; and, in their uses, are seemingly of equal antiquity. Any attempt, therefore, in the present state of the inquiry, to pursue the classifications usually adopted by European archæologists appeared both unnecessary and improper. Realizing this fact, the author has grouped and described the antiquities of the Southern Indians principally with respect to their uses. Monuments, implements, manufactures, and ornaments, are invested with such explanations as are suggested by the early narratives, by peculiar characteristics, by intelligent comparison, and by the special circumstances under which they were found. The classification adopted has been, in many instances, general, and the author has sought to avoid an error into which writers on kindred subjects are prone to fall, namely, a too rigid classification, and an attempt to refer each relic to some definite use. So uncertain is the boundary line which separates well-recognized types; so varied are the modifications of established forms; so great was the poverty of the manufacturers; and so various the purposes to which the same rude tool may have been applied in conducting early mechanical operations, that the candid observer may often confess himself at a loss to determine the positive object for which a given specimen may have been intended.

In his concluding observations the author says: "Upon a careful comparison of the antiquities of the Southern nations with those of the Northern tribes, we think a greater variety and excellence of manufacture, a more diversified expression of fancy in ornamentation, a more careful selection of beautiful material, a superior delicacy and finish in the fabrication of implements, both chipped and polished, a more pronounced exhibition of combined labor in the erection of tumuli, a more despotic form of government, a greater permanency of seats, a more liberal expenditure of care and attention in the cultivation of the soil, a more decided system of worship, and a more dignified observance of the significant festivals and funeral-customs, may fairly be claimed for the former. We are acquainted with no region north and east of the Rio Grande in which the earliest exhibitions of skill and taste in the manufacture of implements and ornaments of stone, shell, and bone, are more varied and attractive, where pipe-making claimed such special attention, and where the antique pottery is indicative of such diversity of form and ornamentation, and possessed of such homogeneousness of composition and durability."

Workshop Appliances; including Descriptions of the Gauging and Measuring Instruments, the Hand Cutting-tools, Lathes, Drilling, Planing, and other Machine-tools used by Engineers. By C. P. B. Shelley, Civil Engineer. 209 Illustrations, 312 pages. Price, $1.50. D. Appleton & Co.

this is a hand-book of tools and their uses, compendious in form, and copiously illustrated, which will be of great value to young artisans and mechanics, whether working in wood or metal. There is no end to machines for reshaping the materials of Nature, and inventors are constantly adding to them; but the fundamental tools for producing mechanical effects, with their resources of variation, fall into a few classes, and their modes of action are capable of explanation within a narrow space. It is the variation and recombination of comparatively a few implements that are constantly coming before us in the form of complex and obscurely acting contrivances. Two objects are to be gained by the use of tools: 1. The production of given mechanical effects; and, 2. Accuracy in the processes. Both of these objects are now attained by mechanics with a remarkable degree of perfection. Mr. Shelley describes these in clear and simple language, which, with his excellent illustrations, makes the subject quite intelligible to ordinary readers. Besides its value as a practical hand-book to the working mechanic, this little volume will have great interest for those who wish to understand how the wonders of modern construction are executed.