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

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 49‎ | May 1896


Dr. Ostwald has again laid the chemists of the world under obligations to him by a helpful discussion of the principles underlying a department of their science.[1] Feeling that the scientific side of analytical chemistry had been left too far behind by the technique of the subject, he has undertaken to make available recent advances in chemical theory that are capable of throwing much light upon the processes of the analytical laboratory. The author points out that for the recognition of a substance only a few of its properties need be ascertained, for if the substance under examination agrees perfectly in some of its properties with a known substance, it will agree in all. It usually happens that we have a mixture of substances to examine, and the separation of these must precede their recognition. He next shows that separation is a mechanical operation and usually depends on transforming one substance after another into a different state of aggregation from the rest of a mixture. Chemical separation consists in such transformations, and is hence really a preparation for mechanical separation. In treating these processes the author discusses the theory of solution, an important law of which is that salts do not exist as such in aqueous solution, but are dissociated more or less completely into their constituents or ions. Other laws concerned in chemical separation are those of chemical equilibrium, the course of chemical reactions, precipitation, and those governing reactions attended with the liberation or absorption of gas and reactions accompanying the extraction of a dissolved substance from one solvent by means of another. To this chapter the author has added a section on electrolytic separation. Dr. Ostwald touches upon the measurement of the quantity of a substance that has been separated and recognized, or quantitative analysis, and then passes to the application of the laws just enunciated. This part of the work is arranged according to the usual analytic groups, and the behavior with reference to their ionic state of the substances treated is made especially prominent. The author holds that "if we adhere constantly to the point of view that analytical reactions are with very few exceptions reactions of ions, then a review of the facts of analytical chemistry becomes at once infinitely simpler."


One of the latest additions to the Library of Useful Stories is a popular sketch of geology.[2] The author first calls attention to the earth's internal heat and to its effects in producing the rocks of mountains and volcanoes. He then shows how the materials of stratified rocks are produced and laid down and what a variety of fossil vegetable and animal forms are included in them. This brings him to the descriptions of the successive geological formations, from the Archæan to the gravels, which occupy the rest of the volume. The aim of the author has been "to tell the story of the Earth so that its past history helps to explain its present condition." To this end he constantly points out how familiar appearances result from the processes which he is describing, and he also draws especial attention to the information which fossils give us concerning the rocks in which they are found. The text is illustrated with forty outs.

The inscription on the back of a volume before us is a most unfortunate one,[3] for if the student does not take the trouble to look between the covers he is led to believe that the book is an extensive monograph on Peripatus, with forms closely related to this extraordinary animal. If he passes it in consequence of this misleading title, he will have missed an exceedingly condensed and clear account of the external features, habits, and anatomy of Peripatus by Mr. Sedgwick, filling twenty-six pages; a most valuable chapter of fifty pages on the Myriapoda, by F. G. Sinclair; and another chapter on the orders Aptera, Orthoptera, Neuroptera, and Hymenoptera, by David Sharp, of five hundred pages! As the other orders of Insecta are to be dealt with in Volume VI of this series, one wonders what the lettering on the back of Volume VI will be—possibly Peripatus, etc., by Sedgwick, see Volume V, or, as it will begin with the Coleoptera, some low and aberrant form will be selected, and on the back the comprehensive title Stylops, etc., will stand for the great orders Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, Diptera, and Hemiptera! With this criticism, we can only say that the book upholds the reputation already established for the series. The illustrations are many and beautiful, the descriptions and grouping of the material clear, and the work an indispensable one to the general student of this great class of animals.

In two text-books on zoölogy recently received provision is made for two modes of instruction. In the one[4] the scientific method of acquiring knowledge of natural history—through field study and laboratory work—is consistently carried out. A comparatively small number of typical forms (thirty-two), ranging from the amœba to the rabbit, are chosen for study, all being such as may be easily obtained at inland points as well as near the sea. The chapter on insects shows the method of the book. It begins with directions for collecting specimens. The sulphur butterfly is the first species to be studied, and enough of its characteristics are given to enable the student to recognize it. He is directed to collect specimens for study, and while collecting to observe such things as the kind of flowers on which they are found feeding, whether they feed on the wing or not, the organ used in obtaining food, its position when in use and when not in use, its shape and length. Other observations are to be made on a specimen liberated indoors before a closed window. The study is continued with dead specimens. At the end of the chapter on insects is a general account of the life process in this group of creatures. This is followed by a review exercise which involves considerable observation, and after this a lesson in classification is given. An appendix contains lists of books and reagents, full directions for obtaining and preparing material for study, a glossary, etc. There are one or more illustrations for each species studied.

Recognizing the fact that in many large schools, especially in cities, it is impossible to secure provision for either laboratory work or field excursions by classes, Miss Burnet has aimed to provide as good a substitute as may be in book form.[5] Not being limited to animals everywhere procurable, she ranges through the whole kingdom from amœba to man, and gives brief descriptions of a large number of species, including many salt-water dwellers. Independent collecting by the pupil is encouraged to supply the deficiencies of text-book study, directions for taking specimens and preparing them for the cabinet being given in some detail. There are one hundred and ninety-seven illustrations.

The author of this book,[6] to whom the original structure of the universe has long been a favorite subject of study, has here presented a modified form of the nebular theory of Laplace, based on certain calculations and new ideas of his own. As a starting point, he suggests the possibility of a more attenuated form of matter than we conceive as nebula, consisting of particles smaller than the chemical atoms, and to this he gives the name "pneuma." He supposes the pneuma to consist not of a single nor a few elements, but of a much larger number than we now know—possibly exceeding ten thousand. He then goes on to describe how these particles might combine to form atoms and how an immense pneuma might condense to form a core around which revolved masses formed from rings that had been detached as the process advanced. In this, and in accounting for the rotation of the several members of such a system, he is not greatly at variance with current theories. His view of comets makes them quite regular members of a planetary system. In the more particular examination of the history and present condition of the earth, which follows, he suggests the possibility of some continental elevations being formed by the projection of cold planetoids upon the molten globe. The probable effect upon the condensing earth of the formation of the inferior planets is then discussed, and, in conclusion, an effort is made to correlate the geological periods, including the Glacial epoch, with astronomical phenomena. The author has read papers upon some of the topics discussed in this book before various learned societies in England. The volume is illustrated with several plates and small cuts.

Food Products of the World is the title of an interesting volume by M. E. Green, M. D. (Chicago, The Hotel World). The original intention of the author, who was one of the judges of food products at the Columbian Exposition in 1893, was simply to give an account of the foods there exhibited; but as the work progressed it was deemed desirable to expand the treatment somewhat and make a popular treatise, which should in a fairly thorough manner cover the whole subject. Each food stuff is first treated in a general way. Its history, preparation, cooking, and keeping qualities; its habitat, if animal or vegetable; and, finally, the chemical composition and dietetic value, are given.

Since the appearance of the first edition of this work, Sedgwick and Wilson's Introduction to General Biology (Holt, Sl.'ZS), in 1886, the original intention of the authors, to publish a second volume which was to form the main body of the work, and to include the study of a series of type forms, has been abandoned. The present volume, in consequence of this, differs in several particulars from the first edition. The introduction has been extended so as to include representatives of the unicellular organisms, amœba, infusoria, protococcus, yeasts, bacteria. The study of the animal is placed before that of the plant, and the laboratory directions, which occur in the first edition, having been found unsuitable, are omitted. The general subject matter has been revised and many additions made, especially on the physiological side.

We are convinced from an examination of the text-book on Organic Chemistry: the Fatty Compounds, by H. Lloyd Whiteley (Longmans, 3s. 6d.—$1), that its author possesses a high degree of the teaching faculty. He seems to build up a knowledge of the carbon compounds in the student's mind by starting with a few general ideas and adding others in the order and manner in which they can be best assimilated. He is careful also to distinguish what is demonstrable experimentally from what is obtained by reasoning or is assumed as a means of expressing empirical results. He is concise, too, managing to describe in a small volume the fatty hydrocarbons, haloid paraffins, monohydric alcohols and their several classes of derivatives, the cyanogen and carbonic-acid derivatives, the derivatives of unsaturated hydrocarbons, and the dihydric and polyhydric alcohols and their derivatives. Processes for the preparation of a large number of compounds are given, a distinguishing mark being placed against those most suitable for students' work. Commercial processes for producing the most important substances are outlined. There are forty-five cuts, nearly all of laboratory apparatus.

In Essentials of Vegetable Pharmacognosy the gross structure of plants is set forth by Henry H. Rusby, M. D., and their minute structure by Smith E. Jelliffe, M. D. (Haynes, New York). The former monograph begins with the structure of the flower, and passes on to its functions and the production of fruit. The root, stem, and leaf are then considered in succession, after which phyllotaxy and anthotaxy are discussed. The treatment is full but condensed, and no effort has been made to avoid technical terms. The second portion of the work is prefaced by descriptions of various simple magnifiers and of the compound microscope. The structure and contents of the plant cell are then described, after which the tissues, grouped according to function, receive attention. The volume is designed mainly for students of pharmacy and medicine, and both parts are fully illustrated.

The Bulletin of the Department of Labor, a bimonthly publication authorized by the United States Congress, began with a number for November, 1895. The Bulletin is designed to present results of investigations by the department of less magnitude than those usually embodied in the annual or special reports, also digests of foreign and State labor reports, new State and national laws relating to labor, and brief items of interest. The first number contains a record of strikes and lockouts in the United States and other countries in recent years, a statement of private and public debt in the United States, a digest of recent reports of State labor bureaus, statistics of employment of women and girls in England and Wales, and a statement of the legal relations between employer and employee.

The Third Series of Essays by Lady Cook on Social Topics (Universal Publishing Co., London, 6d.) consists of thirteen essays pointing out the need of reforms in the relations between the sexes. In these papers Lady Cook advocates nothing unreasonable, while her mode of presentation is forcible, serious, and free from prolixity.

In two pamphlets—Discussions on the Gypsies and Social Emancipation of the Gypsies—an effort is made by James Simson to obtain better social recognition for this people and to prove that John Buuyan was one of their number (The Author, 43 Exchange Place, New York; '70 cents and 30 cents). Unfortunately, the author has neither the faculty for investigation nor the art of presenting a subject in proportion to his interest in the matters that he discusses.

The Report of the State Geological Survey of New Jersey for 1894 represents work in surface geology in both the northern and southern parts of the State. The areal work in the glaciated area was completed, and good progress was made in the region farther south, especially in the western part of the State—Mercer, Burlington, and Monmouth Counties. These areas were studied in much detail. A map accompanying the report—Geological Map of the Valley of the Passaic—indicates the extent of the work which has virtually been accomplished. It presents an instructive view of the geological features, streams, and towns. Further light is thrown by the results recorded concerning the considerable influence of stagnant ice upon the deposition of the stratified drift of the valleys of the northern part of the State, and the general position already taken concerning the history of the yellow gravel formations. Many facts of great interest are given concerning the artesian wells of southern New Jersey and the forestry of the State, to which the second and third parts of the report are devoted.

The Revista delta Beneficenza Puhblica delle Istituzioni di Providenza e di Igiene Socicde (Review of State Philanthropic and Provident Institutions and of Social Welfare), Bologna and Rome, Avvocate G. Scolti, director, was started with the beginning of 1896. Besides general articles, it gives notices of the publications of benevolent institutions, social studies of the laboring classes, legal events, and official reports pertaining to subjects within the scope described by its title. The principal article in the January number is on True Beneficence and Legal Beneficence.

Il Pensiero Moderno is a new semi-monthly periodical published at Rome which will deal with all that concerns the modern sociological movement, and the fields of science, literature, and art. The name of Prof. G. Sergi stands at the head of its list of collaborators. The first number contains articles on social hygiene and education. A regular feature will be the fortnightly notes on the more important intellectual and social events within its scope.

We find matter of great interest and value in the Ethnologisches Notizblatt of the Direction of the Royal Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin. The articles are mostly by the director. Dr. A. Bastian, and his assistants, Profs. A. Grünnedel and W. Grube, and Drs. F. Von Luscher, W. Seler, F. W. K. Müller, and Wenle. In Heft 2 for 1895 we find papers on two old canoe-carvings from New Zealand, various anthropological objects from India, a Japanese picture of the world-mountain, Meru, a number of recent Siamese books and manuscripts, a collection of Chinese idols from Amoy, the latest crossing of Africa, the twenty-fifth annual meeting of the German Anthropological Society, the Siamese art work Trai-Phum, or Three Worlds, color studies, the report of our Ethnological Bureau, and a large number of notices of books, societies, etc., relating to anthropology.

A very elaborate examination of the development of Kant's philosophical system is presented in the Kant-Studien of Dr. Erich Addickes (Kiel and Leipsic: Lipsius and Fischer). In the first part of the essay, which is devoted to this subject specially, the course of the German theory of knowledge from Leibnitz to Kant is reviewed, with analyses of the systems of Leibnitz, Wolff and his followers, and Crusius, after which follow sections on Kant's original point of view, his so-called empiristic period, his conversion in the year 1769, and the inaugural dissertation and Kant's further development. The second part is on the period of the composition of the Kritik of Pure Reason.

A volume of Chemical Experiments, containing something over two hundred experiments, has been prepared by Ira Remsen and Wyatt W. Randall to accompany Prof. Remsen's Introduction to the Study of Chemistry (Holt, 50 cents). This laboratory manual includes the experiments in the last edition of the Introduction, minor changes having been made in many of them, and essential changes in a few. There have been also some additions.

  1. The Scientific Foundations of Analytical Chemistry. By Wilhelm Ostwald. Pp. 207, 12mo. London and New York: Macmillan & Co. Price, 5s. net, $1.60.
  2. The Story of the Earth in Past Ages. By H. G. Seeley, F. R. S. Pp. 186, 24mo. London: George Newnes, Ltd. Price, 1s. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Price, 40 cents.
  3. The Cambridge Natural History. Vol. V. Peripatus, etc. Sedgwick. Macmillan & Co.
  4. Elementary Lessons in Zoölogy. By James G. Needham. Pp. 302, 12mo. New York: American Book Co. Price, 90 cents.
  5. Zoölogy for High Schools and Academies. By Margaretta Burnet. Pp. 216, 12mo. New York: American Book Co. Price, 75 cents.
  6. Notes on the Nebular Theory. By William Ford Stanley. Pp. 259, 8vo. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Price, 9s.