Popular Science Monthly/Volume 48/November 1895/General Notices


In Dr. Kerner's Natural History of Plants The Natural History of Plants. From the German of Anton Kerner von Marilaun. By F. W. Oliver. New York: Henry Holt & Co. Half Volumes I and II. Pp. 777. Price, $7.50. London: Blackie & Son. Price, 35s. net. all the features of the growth, structure, and metamorphoses of vegetation are examined in their relations to one another. Interest was first excited in plants, we are told, by the question of their uses. Other avenues to botanical knowledge have been man's sense of beauty and the impulse to investigate structural differences even down to their most minute characteristics. This has brought the science to its present condition. In addition to these steps, the passion for collecting has been developed. In the later stages of the growth of botany observers have become convinced that every plant undergoes a continuous transformation which follows a definite course, and every species is constructed on a plan fixed within general limits and exhibiting variation in externals only. The systematic arrangement that has grown out of the application of these principles starts with the idea that rather than by similarity between adult forms the relationships of different plants are more correctly indicated by the fact of their exhibiting the same laws of growth and the same phenomena of reproduction. As the beginning of the plants and of the study of them we are told of the living principle in them, represented by the protoplasts, which are considered as the seat of life, and of their movements, secretions, and constructive activity, and their communication with one another and with the outer world. The next steps are the absorption of nutriment from inorganic substances and organic and the changes it produces in the soil; the conduction of food; and the formation of organic matter from the absorbed inorganic food, with the functions of chlorophyll and the green leaves. Metabolism and the transport of materials are considered with reference to the organic compounds in plants, the transport of substances in living plants, and the propelling forces in the conversion and distribution of materials. Under the heading of the Growth and Construction of Plants are included the Theory of Growth, Growth and Heat, and the Ultimate Structure of Plants. The last chapter of the present volume relates to plant forms as completed structures, and in it are discussed the progressive stages in complexity of structure from unicellular plants to plant bodies and the forms of leaf, stem, and root structures. The volume concludes with the observation that the just pride and satisfaction we may have in what we have gained in the knowledge of plants "must not blind us to the recognition of the fact that most questions concerning the life of plants are as yet only at the commencement of their solution." The work is illustrated by about one thousand original wood-cuts and sixteen plates in oil colors.

Menschutkin's Analytical Chemistry[1]-is a college manual embracing both qualitative and quantitative analysis. Its most distinctive feature is the care that the author has taken to make the student understand the reasons for what he is doing. In the qualitative determination of metals the corresponding compounds of all the metals of a group are studied, and the conditions necessary for the separation of one group from another are deduced (General Reactions), after which the behavior of the compounds relied upon for detecting single metals (Special Reactions) is considered. A systematic course of analysis for the group in hand follows. With the metalloids, on the contrary, the special reactions of these elements and their compounds are first considered, and the student then passes to the complicated methods required for detecting the elements when occurring together. In the quantitative part the chief methods of gravimetric and volumetric analysis and the analysis of organic compounds are set forth. Here the author has followed also, so far as practicable, the procedure employed in the qualitative part.

It is generally accepted now that all life originated in the sea, and very probably in the littoral or coast region. The constantly varying conditions here, due to the surf and the tides, doubtless had a large share in determining form and structure; the violence of the surf beating its inhabitants to death, and the retreat of the tide exposing them to the attacks of predatory birds and beasts and to new atmospheric conditions. Hence in all probability have originated the various forms of adaptation which are calculated to bring about the survival of the fittest. The widespread effect of these factors in shaping present forms lends a special interest to the study of the littoral life of to-day. The general plan of classification in the work before us[2] is not that of any single authority. The authors have adopted the views of the leading specialists in the various groups. While this has the advantage of placing before the student the results of recent investigation, it occasions a certain number of discrepancies where the departments overlap, which are likely to lead to confusion. Up to recent times the mollusca have been regarded as one of the four subdivisions of the great family Malacozoa. The progress of investigation, however, tends to the belief that the mollusca are not so closely related to these groups as such a classification implies. The authors think that any attempt definitely to relate them to one group or another is to go further than the present state of our knowledge warrants. The group Brachiopoda owes its chief interest to the immense variety and great antiquity of its fossil forms. There are at the present time only about one hundred and twenty extant species. The study of the mollusca occupies 460 pages, the remainder of the work being devoted to the brachiopods. The book is intended apparently as a student's manual. The description is clearly written and contains considerable historical narrative and many good illustrations.

Mr. C odd justifies his Primer of Evolution[3] an abridgment of his Story of Creation, by the reception which the larger work received, and the necessity for putting the material into a condensed and inexpensive form in order to reach the general reader. The first portion is descriptive: matter and motion, from the philosophical standpoint; the distribution of matter and the solar system; and finally two long chapters on the past life history of the earth and present life forms, compose Part I. Part II, the explanatory portion, has chapters on the becoming and growth of the universe, the origin of life and life forms, on the origin of species, and social evolution. The book is written in a popular style, and seems an improvement on its more bulky predecessor.

The high disciplinary value of the study of psychology, which gives a scientific basis to education and lifts it out of empiricism, is distinctly shown in the volume before us.[4] The authors have pointed out, in a very interesting manner, the application of psychology to number. They say that the teacher who knows how the mind works in the construction of number is prepared to help the child to think number. They take the position that the normal activity of the mind in constructing number is highly pleasurable. This is confirmed by actual experience and observation of facts in child-life. There are few children who do not delight in counting, and the fact should be taken advantage of by instructors. A sympathetic and competent teacher can interest them so keenly that apparently wonderful results may be obtained with but little difficulty.

The authors speak of how an absolute distaste for number is created by faulty methods of teaching, with arrested development as a natural result. They say it is perhaps not too much to affirm that nine tenths of those who dislike arithmetic, or who at least feel that they have no aptitude for mathematics, owe this misfortune to wrong teaching at first. The teacher can readily learn from an intelligent study how to make the work of the schoolroom consistent with the method under which by Nature's teaching the child has already secured some development of the number activity. Beginning with a group, counting, parting, and wholing are all in harmony with Nature's method, which "promotes the natural exercise of mental function and leads gradually but with ease and certainty to true ideas of number. It minimizes the difficulty with which multiplication and division have hitherto been attended, and helps the child to recognize in the dreaded terra incognita of fractions a pleasant and familiar land."

The authors' remarks concerning kindergarten work are sound and are based upon results that are evident to all. There is a sure and pleasurable way, along the line of least resistance, that may be followed in the kindergarten, with great improvement in the method of preparation for a child's work later. The authors say: "Surely something is lacking, either in the kindergarten as a preparation for the primary school or in the primary school as a continuation of the kindergarten, when a child after full training in the kindergarten, together with three years' work in the primary school, is considered able to undertake nothing beyond the 'number twenty.'" They add that under rational and pleasurable training of the number instinct in the kindergarten the child ought to be arithmetically strong enough to make immediate acquaintance with the number twenty, and rapidly acquire, if he has not already acquired, a working conception of much larger numbers.

In the easiest possible manner the authors go on to explain every process of number, and the presentation is such as to interest any one impressed with the necessity of a sound basis for education, but more particularly those instructors to whom we look for guidance—from kindergarten to college.

Mr. Frank Sargent Hoffmann's book on The Sphere of the State[5] is the substance, chiefly, of lectures delivered before the senior class of Union College in 1898, and is intended to set forth clearly and concisely the ethical principles involved in the rights and action of the state, and to show how they may be applied under present conditions and principles. Tn the author's view the state is the primal and universal unit of society; it is coextensive with the human race, and is independent of the existence of nations, and every man is born into it. It is manifold, for many distinct divisions of mankind called states may exist at any given period. The supreme control of all persons and commodities must be with it, and there can never be an individual right to anything in the state that is not subordinate to its right. Dismissing such conceptions as base the organization and extent of the state on geography, race, family relation, language, or religion, the author accepts that which founds it on brotherhood and the needs thereof, and makes the chief and ultimate end of the state, to which all other ends must be subordinate, the perfection of the brotherhood; and all this, the state, the entity, is distinguished from the government, which is only an instrument. The state's first duty is to enlighten its members respecting their ever-varying relations, and what they require—education. While the true and distinctive ground of property is labour, by which it is acquired, and that is performed by individuals, the natural right to property is ultimately resolved into a state right, and the individual's right must in the end be controlled by the needs of the state or the good of the whole brotherhood; and "only from the conception of property as ultimately owned and controlled by the state can we come to a true conception of the property right of each citizen of the state." The principles thus laid down are followed out in their application to the various functions and features of civic and social life; to the creation of corporations and the assigning them their places in the state; to the matter of transportation and its relation to the state; to taxation, the right to impose which belongs only to the state as a whole and is absolute there, but not to any individual i to questions of money; to the treatment of criminals; to relations with the poor; to the government of cities, the family, the Church, and relations with other states. The author's reasoning is profound and comprehensive, his tone is conservative, and the book is full of thought.

Of all the leaders in the late war for the preservation of the Union, General Sheridan[6] probably comes nearest among the Unionist commanders to fulfilling the popular ideal of a hero. Brave, alert, often brilliant, and nearly always successful, he acquired his full measure of glory while in active service, while nothing happened in his after-life to dim his renown. His biographer was fortunate in his subject. We may say that the subject is as fortunate in its biographer. General Davies sei'ved with distinction in the cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac under General Sheridan from September, 1863, till the end of the war, and his brigade was present in all Sheridan's battles. It was mainly for this reason that he was chosen by the editor of this series to be Sheridan's biographer. He was an officer of correct military information and was, as his narrative proves, a writer with clear perception of what should go into a biography, and was able to estimate correctly the value of each action and to describe his hero justly and without exaggeration or extravagance. He died one month after he had completed this book. He regards General Sheridan as having possessed to an eminent degree the most indispensable qualities of a commander. "He had the ability to think and act promptly and energetically, and, if need were, independently of instructions, and to assume and support with ease whatever responsibilities his situation might require; he had the power to impress his will and personal influence upon all who were under his command." He was not a martinet or a rigid disciplinarian, but exacted implicit obedience from his subordinates and a prompt and energetic performance of duty. He also recognized the reciprocal relations that should exist between a commander and his troops. Great stress has been laid by some writers upon his "dash," but no estimate of his character could be more erroneous than that which made him only a hard-riding, hard-fighting, and reckless soldier, whose fame and success were due to desperate personal courage and impulsive combativeness, with exceptional good fortune. He had energy and dash, and, added to these, judgment, patience, industry, and full knowledge of all the duties of a commander and a soldier, and deserved all the distinction he won.

The Annual Report of the New York State Board of Charities for 1894, a bulky volume of 576 pages, is a valuable compilation of statistics relating to the charitable institutions and other charities of the State. The total expenditure of the State charities department for the year ending September 30, 1894, was $3,877,709.80; of county and city institutions, $3,872,985.50; and of private and incorporated societies and associations, $13,231,698.52. This was a total increase over 1893 of $574,410.88.

The Teacher's Mentor (Bardeen, 50 cents) is written to aid the inexperience and guide the uncertainty regarding practical details of the beginner who is without special training. It is, the author says, based on what he now sees would have been useful to him in his early years of teaching. Among the topics considered are, the outfit for teaching, including knowledge of subjects to be taught and general information desirable; necessity for understanding the children; what education is; relations between teacher and trustee; desirability of producing a good first impression on the children; and school routine in detail.

The studies on which Le Pétrole, l'Asphalte, et le Bitumen (Petroleum, Asphalt, and Bitumen), of the late Prof. A. Jaggard, of Neufchâtel, is based, were begun in the Jura and the asphalt bed of the Val-de Travers, and were stimulated by the discovery of mineral oil in the United States. Their purpose was to investigate the origin of the natural hydrocarbons. The various theories of petroleum are criticised, the mode of its formation is discussed, the discoveries of beds of it in the Old and New Worlds are described; and bitumen and asphalt are similarly treated. The author concludes that no extraordinary processes or forces are needed to account for the production of these substances, but that it is still going on in the usual course of events, by a kind of natural, slow distillation of organic matter. But in studying the beds it is necessary to discriminate between the original formation of the substances and the displacements which they may have undergone afterward, and which may have had much to do in bringing them into their present position. The book is published by Félix Alcan, Paris, as a number of the French International Scientific Series.

In a similar line, though the startingpoint is different, is Les Merveilles de la Flore Primitive (Wonders of the Primitive Flora) of M. A. Froment, which is published by Georg & Co., at Geneva and at Paris. It begins with a minute study of the carboniferous vegetation, its structure and forms, and proceeds to the discussion of the way in which the coal-forming plants may have been accumulated and converted into coal. This is done by gradual, unheated distillation, which, under certain other conditions, produces the hydrocarbons. A preponderant function is ascribed to electricity in the production of the coal plants. This well-reasoned essay is followed by a remarkable speculation over what may have happened if Australia fell upon the earth as a meteoric mass.

In obedience to an act of Congress, the Commissioner of Labor has made an investigation and a report on The Slums of Baltimore, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. The report embraces thirty-three tables, in which are given under various classifications the color or race, country of birth, citizenship, illiteracy, occupations, weekly earnings, number of children, bodily condition, etc., of the inhabitants of the districts examined, also the school attendance of their children, the number of families to a tenement, air space to a person, rent paid, and sanitary condition of the tenements. From an analysis of the tables it appears that the slums, as compared with other parts of the cities in which they are, have a larger proportion of foreign-born denizens; sickness does not prevail in them to any greater extent, and most of the bacteria found in the air of the tenements are harmless; the occupations of the slum population are as varied as those followed in other districts, and their earnings are "quite up to the average earnings of the people generally and at large." But few tenements could be reported as in excellent sanitary condition; in Philadelphia and Baltimore those classed as good formed the largest division, while in New York and Chicago those reported as fair were the largest class. Cases of overcrowding were numerous.

Part XXVII of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research opens with an account of some experiments in thought transference, by Henry G. Rawson, in which drawings were reproduced and cards were named correctly in a large proportion of cases. The chief contribution in the number is a second installment of the experiences of the late W. Stainton Moses, communicated by F. W. H. Myers. These experiences are what are commonly known as spiritual communications. There is also a paper on the Apparent Sources of Subliminal Messages, and reviews of books on hypnotism, the exposure of Mme. Blavatsky, and other psychical subjects.

In The Coming Revolution (Boston, Arena Publishing Company) the position is assumed by Henry L. Call that the prevailing discontent among the "toiling masses" is a sign that the present conditions of society and the relations of the rich and the wage workers are all wrong and a revulsion is imminent. The author accordingly begins his diagnosis with an examination into the condition of society, and follows it up with inquiries into the causes that have produced that condition; the nature of these causes, and whether they rightfully admit of a remedy and its justification; the application of the remedy to each of the causes in turn; the effects of the remedy; and the manner in which it is to be achieved. The causes of the trouble are abuses of privilege of a political nature and origin. The remedy is to enforce the law of freedom—of social and industrial as well as political freedom; and it is to be secured by political means.

  1. Analytical Chemistry. By N. Menschutkin. Translated by James Locke. London and New York: Macmillan & Co. Pp.512, 8vo. Price, $4 net.
  2. Mollusks and Recent and Fossil Brachiopods. Vol III of the Cambridge Natural History. By A. H. Cooke, A. E. Shipley, and F. R. C. Reed. London and New York: Macmillan & Co. Pp. 535. Price, $2.60
  3. A Primer of Evolution. By Edward Clodd. London and New York: Longmans, Green & Co. Pp. 186. Price, 75 cents.
  4. Psychology of Number. By Dr. J A. McClellan and Prof. John Dewey. International Education Series. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 309, 12mo. Price, $1.50.
  5. The Sphere of the State, or the People as a Body Politic; with Special Consideration of Certain Present Problems. By Frank Sargent Hoffmann. New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, pp. 275.
  6. Great Commanders: General Sheridan. By General Henry E. Davies. With Portrait and Maps. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 332. Price, $1.51