Popular Science Monthly/Volume 49/August 1896/General Notices


It is doubtful if any more generally interesting subject will be found for the Library of Useful Stories than the one treated in the second volume that Mr. Chambers[1] has contributed. It is evident also that this author has the faculty of making a truly popular scientific book. His text is everywhere readable, and his pages never bristle with repellent figures. Mr. Chambers gives a chapter to each of the planets, and one each to the sun, moon, minor planets, and those impressive wanderers, the comets. His mode of treatment gives the reader a personal acquaintance, as it were, with each member of the system by making prominent those characteristics of each which are of chief interest. His chapter on the sun gives especial attention to sun-spots; that on the earth to refraction, twilight, and the twinkling of stars which are phenomena of its atmosphere; that on Mars to its canals that on Jupiter to its satellites; that on Saturn to its rings; that on Uranus, as also that on Neptune, to the story of its discovery. On account of the lively popular interest in comets the chapter on these bodies is made second only to that on the sun in fullness. There are twenty-eight illustrations.

We are disappointed in this book—and glad to be.[2] From its title we inferred that it was a tissue of dogmatic assertion and ecstatic speculation; but examination shows it to contain a clearly arranged and vigorously presented chain of evidence concerning the physical and mental development of man. This is followed by a firm statement of belief in the teachings of the Bible. It consists of a series of lectures delivered on the foundation given by S. F. B. Morse to Union Theological Seminary with one additional chapter. The students who heard the lectures received a valuable addition to their equipment for their life work, and if the persons who are attracted by its title will read the book they will derive probably unexpected benefit from it. After an examination of the manner in which the problem of man's past has been largely solved, Prof. Tyler starts with the amoeba, and in three chapters traces the course of animal evolution up through the invertebrates and lower vertebrates to man. In the next chapter mental development is similarly traced. The general nature of the process by which man has been produced is then discussed. "The animal is at first guided," says Prof. Tyler, "by natural selection through the survival of the most suitable reflex actions, then by inherited tendencies, finally by his own conscious intelligence and will. The first motives are the appetites, but these are succeeded by ever higher motives as the perceptions become clearer and more subtile relations in environment are taken into account." Conformity to environment, as our author describes the process, enables an animal to survive his less fortunate fellows; but if the animal is to progress it must keep such conformity secondary to obedience of the laws of its own structure and being. Man as he is to-day is the outcome of such a line of conduct, and his future upward progress depends on his measuring himself by ever higher and higher standards. It may be questioned whether this adaptation of men and animals to their surroundings ever becomes so largely voluntary as Prof. Tyler seems to represent. In the course of this discussion the author passes out of the field of science into that of religion, and in a chapter specifically devoted to the teachings of the Bible he insists on the reality of revelation and the efficacy of prayer, and gives some practical advice to young preachers. A chapter not forming one of the lectures concludes the volume. This deals with some of the present aspects of evolution, including Nägeli's theory of inherent initial tendency and giving especial attention to Weismann's views.

The widespread use of electricity and the numerous casualties resulting from ignorant or careless wiring make Mr. Robb's book[3] on electrical wiring a very timely one. It has evidently been intended mainly for the use of architects and insurance companies, but the text is so simply and clearly written that the ordinary householder will have no trouble in following it. Insulation, which is one of the most important portions of electric installation, is first considered; then the proportioning of wires to current, and the various systems of distribution and methods of wiring. The remainder of the book is taken up by a consideration of the national code of rules for electric wiring. This code, which has gradually been molded into its present shape by the underwriters, is now generally accepted by the best electrical companies. It is the result of a careful study of past accidents due to faulty wiring, and much experimental work with the various insulators and electric appliances. As the rules are necessarily short and contain many technical terms, Mr. Robb has, where necessary, defined the terms, and after each rule has stated the reasons for it. The book is well conceived, and should find a large field of usefulness especially among architects, who, as the author says, are not nearly so well up in electrical matters as they should be.

The essay for which a prize of five hundred dollars from the Henry M. Phillips fund was awarded by the American Philosophical Society in 1896 has been printed in the Proceedings of the Society. Its subject is The Theory of the State, and the writer is George H. Smith, of Los Angeles. Mr. Smith makes four chief divisions of his discussion, namely, (1) the nature of the state, (2) its functions, (3) its rights or rightful powers, and (4) the principles that should govern its political organization. In an introductory chapter he criticises the doctrine of absolute sovereignty as generally received in modern times, which he regards as standing in the way of an intelligent investigation of his subject. After discussing other definitions of the state he defines it as "an autonomous society of men," and proceeds to treat of the functions of such an organization. The rights or just powers of the state he treats as a subdivision of jurisprudence, using this word to mean the whole science of right. In his final chapter he deals with the principles of political organization, describing the several kinds of government, and discussing the principles that should govern the distribution of the sovereign powers.

The Elementary Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, by G. C. Foster and E. Atkinson (Longmans, $2.25), affords a substantial college course in its subject. The work is a translation, considerably modified with the consent of the author, of Joubert's Traitée Élémentaire d'Électricité. A notable departure from the original consists in the introduction of that view of the nature of electrical phenomena which was originated by Faraday and developed by Maxwell. This has involved keeping in view throughout the volume the dual character of electrification and emphasizing the essential part played in familiar electrical phenomena by the dielectric medium in which they occur. On the same account the idea of lines and tubes of force has been early introduced, and charge, capacity, and energy are spoken of as belonging to the electric field as a whole, rather than to the conductors which bound it. The work is almost exclusively devoted to the laws and principles of the science, giving but little attention to applications and none to history, and nearly all of its three hundred and eighty-one illustrations are cuts of laboratory apparatus or diagrams. The authors have made more use of mathematical reasoning than M. Joubert did, so that processes of calculation by the aid of formulas appear in every chapter.

It would seem possible to select a laboratory manual of chemistry suitable for almost any class from among those now published. One recently prepared by Prof. Edward H. Keiser, of Bryn Mawr (American Book Company, 50 cents), furnishes a list of two hundred and sixty-eight elementary experiments illustrating the properties of the common elements and the chief laws of chemical action. Certain of these experiments, designated Laboratory Demonstrations, are intended to be performed only by one or two of the more skillful students in the presence of the whole class. Questions are interspersed with the directions, some of which can be answered from the observations made on the experiments, and the rest from the text-book or lectures that will accompany the manual.

Mr. Arthur H. Hiorns, who is the author of several books on related subjects, has now written Principles of Metallurgy, a somewhat more advanced work than his Elementary Metallurgy, and containing new methods that have been introduced in recent years (Macmillan, $1.60). The arrangement of the matter is thus outlined in the preface: "The physical properties of the metals are considered first; then the chemical principles involved in the various processes are explained; the information concerning the metallic alloys is placed together; this is succeeded by a description of fluxes, slags, and refractory materials; the nature and mode of preparation of different kinds of fuel are next referred to; then follows a more detailed description of the metallurgy of iron and steel, silver, gold, platinum, lead, copper, zinc, tin, nickel, cobalt, aluminium, antimony, arsenic, and bismuth." The properties of each metal are given and something is told of its uses. There are one hundred and forty-four illustrations, including cuts of furnaces and other apparatus, diagrams showing the course of operations, etc.

In a series of chapters which might well have been sermons, under the title Old Faiths and New Facts, an effort is made by William W. Kinsley to show that the beliefs in miracles, in the efficacy of prayer, in the divinity of Christ, and in a future life need not be disturbed by the discoveries of modern science (Appletons, $1.50). Two chapters of the book have appeared in the Bibliotheca Sacra, and those on prayer, at the instance of Bishop J. H. Vincent, were used as part of the prescribed Chautauqua reading for 1894. The volume will doubtless help many who have been dazzled by the new light of science to retain their religious beliefs.

An examination of various abuses in American public affairs comes to us in a volume by Frederick W. Schultz, entitled Politics and Patriotism (Arena Publishing Company). The author traces the growth of the American political ideal through colonial times, the Revolutionary period, and, after some discussion of the later amendments to the Constitution of the United States, carries his subject through the civil war and reconstruction periods. He next criticises the protection and greenback doctrines, and shows how selfishness is productive of many evils in the industrial relations. Inequalities of taxation are discussed at considerable length, and a series of striking examples possible under the laws of Maryland is given. In the concluding portion of the volume a brief history of exposures of corruption in New York, Baltimore, and other large cities is presented, and a scheme is offered for securing pure primary elections, which the author holds is the first step toward municipal reform. Mr. Schultz, who introduces himself as a man busy with mercantile affairs, writes with much feeling but temperately, and expresses himself clearly and concisely. His book is one to stimulate thought in the average citizen.

Evidently the true reason for the publication of the collection of Fables and Essays recently issued by John Bryan is that given in the preface, namely, "the same reason a hen lays eggs"—for relief to the author. Liberty and justice are the two avowed motives of the book. In the fables, brief essays, and bits of verse which it contains, satire and sentiment are mingled. The ideas that oftenest find expression in its pages are hatred of industrial and social oppression, and of priestcraft, honor and tenderness for the natural woman, impatience with the unnatural, sympathy with the victims of selfish greed, contempt for arrogance and pretense, and intolerance of artificiality in manners, education, and conduct. The personality of the author is everywhere apparent in the volume, and if the reader does not like that personality, Mr. Bryan makes it very evident that he need not read the book (The Arts and Lettres Company, New York).

A neat little handbook on Physical Measurements, by L. W. Austin and C. B. Thwing, has just come to hand. It is intended as a guide for the elementary student in the physical laboratory, and "simply presupposes such a knowledge of the principles of physics as can be gained from a course of general lectures supplemented by a good text-book." Each physical law, with the special pieces of apparatus for applying it to physical measurements, is taken up, and after a thorough description examples for testing the student's grasp of the principle are given. The last fifty pages of the book consist of the tables necessary for making computations and verifying the results (Allyn & Bacon, $1.50).

The portion of the college curriculum in which the most valuable and practical knowledge is obtained is the laboratory at any rate, in the physical sciences, and in some of the more abstract and difficult subjects, such as psychology, there is an increasing use of laboratory methods. In Mechanics, the last of the Cambridge Natural Science Manuals to reach us, Prof. R. T. Glazebrook has embodied the results of his experience as a teacher both in the laboratory and its adjunct, the lecture room. The first portion of the book deals with dynamics, the second with statics, and the third and last with hydrostatics—two hundred and eight pages in all. Each physical law is illustrated by means of simple apparatus and experiments, and examples are scattered through the text for testing the student's grasp of each principle. The book is well printed and bound; illustrations are used where necessary; and although the work is by no means a complete treatise, it seems thoroughly good as far as it goes, and well suited to the needs of elementary students (Macmillan, $2.25).

  1. The Story of the Solar System. By George F. Chambers. Pp. 188, 16mo. London: George Newnes, Ltd. 1s. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 40 cents.
  2. The Whence and the Whither of Man. By John M. Tyler. Pp. 312, 12mo. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Price, $1.75.
  3. Electric Wiring, for the Use of Architects, Underwriters, and the Owners of Buildings. By Russell Robb. Pp. 183-800. New York: Macmillan & Co. $2.50.