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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 49/June 1896/Scientific Literature

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 49‎ | June 1896

Scientific Literature.

The first volume of the Criminology Series was the result of a special research; the second has a broader and more philosophical scope.[1] Obviously the collection and choice of data lie at the base of any reasoning in criminology. Considerable attention has been paid to such data as anatomical, physiological, and psychological anomalies of criminals. These. Prof. Ferri is convinced, are of value almost solely with respect to born criminals. He makes five classes of criminals: criminal madmen, born criminals, criminals by contracted habits, occasional criminals, and criminals by passion. Those in the last three classes he deems largely the victims of circumstances. He looks to criminal statistics for considerable light on the sociological side of criminality, and finds as the most conspicuous general phenomenon that they exhibit "the steadiness of the gravest forms of crime side by side with the continuous increase of slighter offenses." At the same time there are yearly fluctuations in the several kinds of offenses corresponding to seasons of great or small harvests, excessive heat or cold, political or commercial disturbance, etc. On this correspondence of the amount of criminality to the environment Prof. Ferri bases his "law of criminal saturation," which contradicts Quetelet's dictum as to a regular budget of crime. From this law it follows that the penalties hitherto regarded as the best remedies for crime can not be effectual. Our author, therefore, recommends what may be called "penal substitutes," the aim of which would be to reduce the factors of crime. As ways in which society can be protected indirectly from aggression he instances such devices as the shifting of taxes which tempt to fraud, the adaptation of governments to the people they control, scientific means for the detection of crime, wise legislation in regard to marriage and inheritance, scientific education, and the abolition of unwholesome amusements. The latter half of the volume is of most popular interest, as it is devoted to practical reforms. Among the changes that Prof. Ferri advocates are the general use of the Scotch verdict of "Not proven" incases where neither guilt nor innocence is established, indemnification for judicial errors, the direction of criminal trials, not to appraising the culpability of the prisoner for a particular act, but to ascertaining to what type of criminals he belongs, the abolition of the jury, except in the trial of crimes of the political and social order, the employment of various grades of segregation of the criminal with indeterminate sentences, the commitment of insane criminals to asylums, add the abolition of the death penalty. Many other allied topics are discussed incidentally. The above constitutes what Ferri regards as a defensive system of criminal administration which society should substitute for its present punitive system.


We have had a life of Agassiz as a man, we now have him placed before us both as a man and a scientist by one of his scientific associates and fellow-countrymen.[2] In telling the story of Agassiz's life Prof. Marcou has made use of materials collected from many sources, including much obtained from Agassiz's European friends and associates. All of Agassiz's letters that he inserts, some twenty-five or thirty, were written in Fi'ench and stand in the original language. So also do Agassiz's presidential address on the ice age, delivered before the Helvetic Society, which fills nineteen pages of small type, and the six pages of extracts from De Charpentier's first paper on erratic bowlders, the author believing that all these documents would suffer too much by translation. Our author is not one of those who write eulogy and call it biography. He lets both the well rounded and the less rounded sides of his subject's character be seen. While not depicting him as a demigod, Prof. Marcou has credited Agassiz with talents sufficient to accomplish the labors on which his fame rests. "Agassiz was capricious in the extreme," he says, "very versatile, attracted easily by any new object or subject, and he had the faculty of almost completely forgetting works half done or only sketched. He lacked persistence and steadiness at work requiring long and difficult observations. . . . That something sternly practical mingled with Agassiz's habitual idealism was well proved by his museum. He did not carry it out entirely as he proposed to do at the start, but had he lived twenty years longer his ideal museum would have become a reality. . . . Notwithstanding these serious defects, it is impossible not to admire his great scientific intelligence, and not to recognize his immense scientific force. No one was such an able instigator of scientific researches. He had a magnetic power, and he used it constantly, whatever the subject to be investigated might be. His two principal passions in natural history were teaching and collecting specimens. As a teacher he was unrivaled and unique. . . . As to his other passion, that of collecting specimens and organizing museums, he was a man of wonderful resource." Agassiz's moral traits are also given with much fullness. Many of his characteristics were racial. As his biographer well says, "Agassiz's remarkable personality can not be properly understood without taking into account the strength of his French nature." The Anglo-Saxon reader especially should bear this in mind. Prof. Marcou does not hesitate to go into the various controversies to which Agassiz was a party and to apportion praise and blame according to his judgment. The function of a critic seems to be rather attractive to him, for he goes out of his way to point out defects in Mrs. Agassiz's life of her husband. The word "Works" in the title of this book refers to a list of Agassiz's works, reaching 425 titles, which is appended to Volume II. A list of biographical articles and volumes on Agassiz forms another appendix, and a list of portraits, medals, tablets, etc., still another. A profile portrait and several other illustrations are given.


Two series of books which promise to be very useful to the scientific horticulturist and agriculturist are being issued by the Macmillans. In the Gardencraft Series, we have already noticed The Horticulturist's Rulebook, by Prof. L. H. Bailey, and the second of the series, also by Prof. Bailey, is now before us.[3] Our author treats his subject both philosophically and practically. He first points out some of the causes of variation in plants, and shows that man is only rarely the direct means of originating varieties, but that his work consists in selecting and fixing those that he prefers. In treating of crossing, Prof. Bailey insists on a distinction between the cross proper—i. e., the product from a union of two varieties of the same species—and the hybrid, or product of a union between different species. He tells what benefits may be expected from crossing, and endeavors to prevent too great expectations from hybridizing. The practical portions of the volume are the third and fifth chapters. In the former are given fifteen rules which should govern the breeding of plant-crosses, with the reasons for them. Among these we find such maxims as the following: "Avoid striving after features which are antagonistic or foreign to the species or genus with which you are working." "Breed for one thing at a time." "Establish the ideal of the desired variety firmly in the mind before any attempt is made at plant-breeding." "Even when the desired variety is obtained, it must be kept up to the standard by constant attention to selection." The last chapter consists of directions for the pollination of flowers to secure crossing, with illustrations. There are also extended extracts from Verlot on varieties of ornamental plants, Carrière on bud-varieties, and Focke on characteristics of crosses. A glossary is appended.

The Rural Science Series, edited by Prof. Bailey, opens with a volume on spraying.[4] From the author's chapter on the early history of liquid applications, it appears that plants have been sprinkled with noxious or irritating substances in order to destroy insects for a century, and very likely much longer. The operation known as spraying, however, has not been practiced for more than ten or fifteen years. The early gardeners seemed to think that anything disagreeable to man would be destructive to insects, and Mr. Lodeman gives a number of their recipes evidently based on this idea. Continuing his history, he narrates the introduction of the Bordeaux mixture, the kerosene emulsion, Paris green, London purple, and the other principal insecticides and fungicides now used, and gives the various methods of spraying employed in different countries and in different parts of the United States. Another historical chapter records the progress in appliances, from the liquid in a bucket and a whisk broom to sprinkle it with, up to the small towers on carts on the top of which men armed with hose pipes go gunning for codlin moths, curculios, cankerworms, and such like game. In another chapter he gives formulas for a large number of preparations used in spraying, and, in still another, specific directions for treating the chief cultivated plants, from almond to willow. He discusses also the action of insecticides and fungicides not only upon the pests that they are directed against, but also upon the host-plant, the crop yielded by it, and the soil in which it grows. There are eighty-six cuts and a portrait of M. Millardet, who introduced the Bordeaux mixture. Both volumes are adequately indexed.


We have here not the gossip and superficial impressions of a sight-seer, nor yet a volume of laborious measurements and close reasoning. Greenland Icefields is a description of natural features and inhabitants by one who is not too much engrossed in his science when he visits a strange region to notice and write down matters of interest to less scientific mortals.[5] With this descriptive matter is joined a new discussion of the causes of the ice age, embodied in several chapters contributed by Prof. Upham. Prof. Wright tells us first about the ice of the Labrador Current, which was brought forcibly to his attention by the steamer on which he went to Greenland running squarely against an iceberg. This mishap necessitated a stop on the coast of Labrador, and enabled him to gather may interesting observations on the settlements and the Eskimos of this coast. He records also some observations on the Spitzbergen ice that comes down through Davis Strait. Greenland was finally reached at Sukkertoppen, on the western coast, in latitude 65° 30'. Prof. Wright gives us not only the incidents of his journeys in this far northern land, but also the chief features of the twelve districts into which the western coast strip is divided, some account of the customs and character of the Eskimos, and a historical sketch of the explorations and administration of Europeans in Greenland. His descriptive matter is frequently enlivened by anecdotes, and the text is illustrated by reproductions of many photographic views of persons and places.

From materials furnished by Prof. Wright and other explorers, Prof. Upham has prepared descriptions of the plants and the animals of Greenland and of the inland ice sheet. He also devotes a chapter to tracing the continental changes of level of the Pleistocene period. With this material as a basis, he proceeds to discuss the causes of the ice age, giving the theories that have been put forth to account for the great extension of the ice, and explaining the difference of opinion among glacialists as to whether there were one or more epochs of glaciation. The authors of this book hold to the theory that the ice sheets were due to extensive uplifts of the land forming plateaus which received snow throughout the year. In another chapter the successive stages of the ice age are traced as revealed by their marginal moraines and other deposits. In conclusion. Prof. Wright summarizes the chief facts relating to Greenland's mantle of ice, and to the life of its inhabitants, who seem to be admirably adapted to their surroundings and happy in them.

  1. Criminal Sociology. By Enrico Ferri. Pp. 284, 12mo. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Price $1.50.
  2. Life, Letters, and Works of Louis Agassiz. By Jules Marcou. Two Volumes, 12mo. New York and London: Macmillan & Co. Price, $4.
  3. Plant-breeding. By L. H. Bailey. Pp. 293, 12mo. London and New York: Macmillan & Co. Price, $1.
  4. The Spraying of Plants. By E. G. Lodeman. Pp. 399, 12mo. London and New York: Macmillan & Co. Price, $1.
  5. Greenland Icefields and Life in the North Atlantic. By G. Frederick Wright and Warren Upham. Pp. 407, 12mo. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Price, $3.