Popular Science Monthly/Volume 48/February 1896/General Notices


We can hardly conceive a more fascinating subject than the one treated of in this book.[1] Birds, by their song, their marvelous flight, their mysterious migrations, the independent intelligences among them, which have led in past times to many species becoming the associates of man, offer a most delightful subject for study. It is interesting to recall the fact that Cuvier and his contemporaries regarded the birds as a closed type, a group that seemed completely isolated from the other classes of vertebrates, and now they are known to be closely related to the reptiles. Mr. Headley has devoted considerable space in his book to these reptilian affinities. In his chapter on the embryo bird he might have added other reptilian characters, such as the claws which are seen on the fingers on the embryo sea-pigeon; particularly he might have described more fully the tarsal bones, showing that the ascending process of the astragalus had an independent center of ossification, and represented in the embryo the intermedium wedged in between the distal end of the tibia and fibula as shown in the salamanders. Birds may be cited for almost every point defined by Darwin in his theory of natural selection, not only in their reptilian affinities, as shown in their embryological and paleontological history, but in the very remarkable examples of variation in habit?, color markings, albinism, molting, sexual selection, protective coloration, etc. The author's ideas of homology and analogy are somewhat obscure. Having correctly defined analogy by the common example of a bird's wing and an insect's wing as being alike in function, but different in origin of structure, and hence analogous and not homologous, he proceeds to say that there is no homology between the wing of a bird and the wing of a bat; whereas there is the strictest homology in origin, structure, and function. In the next sentence he says that the tails of all vertebrates are homologous, which is correct. Yet here we have a few vertebræ in one tail and over fifty in another. We have the broad fin of a fish, the trowel of the beaver, and the climbing appendage of the monkey, and all are indeed homologous. In the same way limbs of the vertebrates are homologous; whether it be the pectoral fin of a fish, the leg of a turtle, the wing of a pterodactyl, of a bird or a bat, or the arm of man, a strict homology runs through them all. Mr. Headley has managed his material admirably, and one gets in a condensed form many facts about birds which have been brought to light within recent years. The clearness of the illustrations gives an added value to the book.

A difficult problem can be solved only by attacking it from one side after another. Prof. Donaldson has made his contribution to ascertaining the nature and action of the mind by setting forth the mode of growth of the chief portion of the nervous system.[2] He introduces his specific subject by three chapters discussing the general phenomena of growth and the rate of increase of the whole body. Then taking up the brain and spinal cord, he presents statistics showing at what rates these organs increase in weight and what weights they attain. He finds that the facts now available "contribute mainly to a healthy skepticism concerning the current interpretations of brain-weight." The author next traces the growth of the nerve elements and describes the architecture of the nervous system, calling attention to the changes of structure that are due to the growth of the organism. The process of dissolution in old age is also traced. Chapters on localization of function, physiological rhythms, and fatigue furnish additional data for the author's discussion of the subject of education, which concludes the volume. From these data he finds that "education must fail to produce any fundamental changes in the nervous organization, but to some extent it can strengthen formed structures by exercise, and in part waken into activity the unorganized remnant of the dormant cells, . . . On neurological grounds, therefore, nurture is to be considered of much less importance than Nature, and in that sense the capacities that we most admire in persons worthy of remark are certainly inborn rather than made." From his point of view, therefore, "the formation of habit and reduction of mental friction, by means of concentration, must ever remain the chief objects of a formal training."

Dr. Parkes's book,[3] dealing, in small compass, and in simple language, with the important subject of hygiene, is well suited for use in either the school or the household. The opening chapter, entitled Water, treats of such questions as the proper sources of drinking water, dangers from wells and cisterns, and the filter problem. In the second chapter, on domestic refuse, the sanitary disposal of garbage, dust, etc., is discussed, considerable space being given to sanitary methods of plumbing. Air and ventilation are next taken up, the composition of air, its fouling by respiration, combustion, and organic refuse, cubic space and floor space, introduction of fresh air into rooms, and the practical examination of the ventilation of rooms being some of the important topics. The various methods of heating and lighting are compared in the next two chapters. The open fireplace and the incandescent electric light are selected as the methods which most nearly approach hygienic requirements. When considering the Welsbach lamp the author makes a curious mistake. In speaking of the incandescent mantle, which is composed of the oxide of some of the rarer refractory earths, he calls it the "asbestos gauze mantle." How to construct a healthy house—floors, walls, ceilings, cellars, etc.—and the proper site for building occupy Chapters VI and VII. Classification and composition of foods, vegetarianism, cooking, meal times, appetite, infant feeding, condiments, alcohol, tea, coffee, cocoa, and mineral waters are some of the special topics considered in a long chapter devoted to Food. Physical Exercise, Clothing, and The Care of the Skin, Teeth, and Bowels form the last three chapters of the book. The intention has apparently been to make a practical guide for the average householder, and this result has been well attained.

Animal life is coextensive with the earth. The sea swarms with it, the air teems with it. The extreme cold of the arctic regions and the torrid heat of the equator have each their own special forms. The most elementary knowledge of zoölogy is sufficient to show us that, while much of the difference between the faunas of separated islands and continents and even of approximately contiguous regions is due to the differing flora and climatic conditions, these two factors do not in all cases explain the phenomena of distribution. Mr. Beddard's book[4] is a study of animal life in its relation to latitude and longitude. In Chapter I the author treats of the general facts of the distribution of animals. The special regions which have been arranged for the study of zoölogical geography by various authors are dealt with in Chapter II, and Mr. Sclater's chosen as the ones most convenient. In the third chapter the causes which influence the distribution of animals—temperature, means of dispersal, capacity for migration, human interference, large bodies of water, etc.—occupy fifty of the most interesting pages of the book. The fauna of islands and some theoretical considerations, the latter comprising a discussion of the bearing of distribution on origin, the place of origin of the marsupials, and the theory of the polar origin of life, make up the two closing chapters. The book contains five maps, which graphically show the distribution of special forms of animal life.

In order to make the Werner edition of the Encyclopædia more serviceable to its users, A Guide to Systematic Readings in the Encyclopædia Britannica, prepared by James Baldwin, has been published (Werner Co., $2). The Guide is designed to enable a person to read up a subject thoroughly by directing him to all articles or parts of articles bearing upon it which the Encyclopædia contains. A great cyclopædia is more than a work to be referred to for detached facts. It is a biographical dictionary and a gazetteer; it contains a history of the world, a treatise on each of the arts, sciences, and professions, a history of every literature, and many other treatises which are frequently issued as separate volumes. Fifty-two textbooks now used in colleges consist of articles prepared by their authors for the Britannica. There are three divisions of the Guide. For boys and girls it has home readings in history, biography, science, and on sports and games. For the student it has courses of reading in history, language, literature, the sciences from astronomy to zoölogy, the Bible, etc. In another division it has lists of articles of interest to the merchant, the builder, the electrician, the gardener, the physician, the journalist, the miner, the home-maker, and many others. Many of the references are to the American Additions and Revisions, which the Werner Company has inserted in its edition of the Britannica.

The History of English Literature, by Prof. W. M. Nevin, is based on the conception that literature, like history in general, is an organic process or growth. It springs up out of a nation's life and is its proper expression, always modified by its racial tendencies, its degree of civilization, its climate and soil, and its relations with surrounding nations. The book is designed to furnish interesting and useful information to readers generally, as well as to students in particular. It was arranged to meet the needs of the author in lecturing to his classes, and hence ought to be of practical value to the teacher as well as the student. (Intelligencer Printing Office, Lancaster, Pa.)

The financial essays by Allen Ripley Foote, collected in the book entitled A Sound Currency and Banking System (New York, G. P. Putnam's Sons), were written with the conviction that business panics are ultimately the result of incorrect monetary education finding its expression in unsound legislation. Believing that the immediate return and continued maintenance of a high degree of prosperity for all the people are not prevented by any natural economical condition, the author seeks the appointment of a monetary commission, which, he assumes, acting discreetly, can devise a sound currency and banking system that will remove the cause of financial panics; and the purpose of his essays is to assist in securing the appointment of such a commission and help to a right understanding of the importance, aim, and direction of the work it should do.

While studying the Salishan languages of Washington and Oregon, Dr. Franz Boas learned that the dialects of the lower Chinook were on the verge of disappearing, and that some of them were remembered by only a few individuals. This fact determined him to make an effort to collect what little remained of them. With considerable difficulty he found a person who understood the Chinook, was acquainted with its stories, and intelligent enough to communicate them to him. The results of his labors are embodied in a paper on Chinook Texts, which is published with the originals and interlineal and current translations of the mythological and other stories, by the United States Bureau of Ethnology.

In the Spirit of the Papacy, J. S. Hittell examines the papacy in its political, intellectual, and ethical, as distinct from its theological, aspects. He undertakes to show by what devices it has tried to enslave the human race, and to prove that it is now dwarfing the intellects of those Catholics who submit to its control. He says that there are at present two great classes of Catholics—those including the high clergy, who resist everything in the shape of an innovation or advance; and a larger class, who have drawn near to the Protestants, and who plead for greater friendliness between the adherents of the two great branches of the Christian Church. (The author, San Francisco.)

The two great sources of difficulty to the beginner in geometry are the comparative novelty of the subject-matter and the unaccustomed clearness of conception and exactness of expression required in this new study. In Elements of Geometry, by John Macnie, edited by E. E. White (American Book Co., $1.25), the author says that the second source of difficulty is most easily diminished by reducing the first to a minimum. He has tried to present the subject of geometry with a "logical strictness approaching that of Euclid, while taking advantage of such improvements in arrangement and notation as are suggested by modern experience. . . . The function of a geometry is only secondarily the presentation of a system of useful knowledge, its greatest value lying in affording the only course in strict reasoning with which the majority of students will become acquainted." With these two beliefs as guides, the author has made an attractive and useful little textbook.

Magnetism: its Potency and Action, is the title of a volume in which George W. Holley has recorded some of his observations, experiments, and speculations on the magnetic force (Arena Publishing Company, $1.25).

Among the topics that he discusses are the influence of magnetism on animal and vegetable life, the experiments of M. Hertz, "electric girls," spiritual phenomena, thought transference, hypnotism, and the action of the planchette. He sees magnetism manifested in the action of the brain and the heart, in the homing faculty of animals, the transformation of grubs, and various other phenomena. In this volume also the author outlines a new cosmography, which he illustrates by a diagram.

  1. The Structure and Life of Birds. By F. W. Headley, M. A. Pp. 417, with Illustrations. New York: Macmillan & Co. Price, $2.
  2. The Growth of the Brain. By Henry Herbert Donaldson. The Contemporary Science Series. Pp. 374, 12mo. London: Walter Scott, Ltd. Price, 3s. 6d. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Price, $1.25.
  3. The Elements of Health. By Louis C. Parkes, M. D. Pp 246, 12mo. Philadelphia: P. Blakiston, Son & Co. Price, $1.25.
  4. A Text-book of Zoögeography. By Frank E. Beddard. Pp. 246, 12mo. London: C. J. Clay & Sons. New York: Macmillan & Co. Price, $1.60.