Popular Science Monthly/Volume 50/February 1897/General Notices


Chemistry in Daily Life[1] embodies the substance of a course of lectures delivered by Dr. Lassar-Cohn, Professor of Chemistry in the University of Königsberg, to a society in that town modeled after the celebrated Humboldt Academy of Berlin. The book is written in a popular style, and covers a very wide and important field. It is really a technological handbook of what is perhaps best described as household chemistry The subjects treated are necessarily extremely various, and, except from the side of their importance in the affairs of everyday life, are not in many instances very closely connected. The Physics and Chemistry of Breathing, Argon, Composition of Fats, Tetravalency of the Atom of Carbon, Vaseline, and Incandescent Gaslights are some few of the special headings in the first two chapters, and will perhaps serve to indicate the great variety of topics treated. Perhaps the most important chapters are the first five, which deal chiefly with the chemistry of physiology. Tanning and bleaching are given a chapter. Oil painting, modern-explosives, glass manufacture, photography, and metallurgy are other subjects receiving special attention. The work is necessarily more or less superficial, but it contains much information of importance to the ordinary householder. The translation seems to have been very well done.

The importance which proper nursing is known to have in therapeutics has led of late years to systematic courses in this subject, both at general hospitals and in special schools. These courses have made special text-books a necessity. Dr. Wise's work[2] is the latest handbook of this sort to reach us. As the author says, the chief difficulty in a text-book of nursing is to strike a happy medium between a medical and a high-school text-book—to avoid extreme technicality on the one hand and a too superficial treatment on the other. Dr. Wise seems to have accomplished this. The first volume, with the exception of the last four chapters, which give some general instructions for the preparation and care of the sickroom, is devoted to a statement of the simpler facts of anatomy, physiology, hygiene, and sanitation which have a bearing on nursing. It is the second volume which is the real text-book. Methods of applying local remedies and bandaging are first taken up. The treatment of fractures, dislocations, inflammation, and hæmorrhage are next considered. Emergency work, artificial respiration, convulsions, coma, wounds, and burns are discussed in detail. Nervous diseases and insanity receive considerable attention. Bathing, massage, the administration of medicine and food, children's diseases, signs of death, and care of the dead bring us to the last four chapters, which treat of pregnancy, childbirth, and gynæcological nursing in general. The work is intended as a text book, for use in a school or hospital, and should be supplemented by clinical study.

In the preparation of his Story of the Earth, Dr. Heilprin[3] has sought to present briefly, forcibly, and in a more popular form than in most books of a similar nature, the general facts of geology. Avoiding the recapitulation of numberless details with which authors are easily tempted to burden a work n this science, and making his account narrative rather than adopting an analytical method, he has endeavored to make the book comprehensive enough to meet the needs of the average student, and enlist the attention of readers who would pass by a difficult technical work and would yet not be satisfied with an ordinary elementary one. He has made it a model of compactness, simplicity, lucidity, and readableness, touching upon all essential points, and dwelling on them long enough to make them understood, yet without tiring the reader. The illustrations are numerous, all photographs from the things themselves, largely American, and represent clearly what it is intended to show. First, the rocks are described as a whole; then "what a mountain teaches" is told; the operative forces in geology are presented—snow and glaciers, underground waters, the forces in the earth's interior, volcanoes and earthquakes, and corals and their island products; three chapters are given to the description of fossils; the physiognomy of the land surface is delineated; and the more useful metals and minerals, building stones, soils and fertilizers, and some of the commoner rock-forming minerals and minerals occurring in rocks are described.

The great interest which Prof. Weismann's theories regarding the problems of heredity have excited has led to the translation of a work by Dr. Oscar Hertwig, The Biological Problem of To day,[4] which was published last year in Germany. The book is practically a criticism of Weismannism, Dr. Weismann being the most prominent upholder of what is called the Præformation theory. The main question at issue is a purely biological and very technical one—namely, the process by which organic development is carried on. The Præformationists believe that the future organism exists in the germ, with its various parts differentiated, but of course so extremely minute as to render any physical appreciation of this fact quite impossible. The upholders of what is called Epigenesis, on the other hand, insist that in the beginning there is no such differentiation, but that the original germinating mass is practically homogeneous, and the subsequent specialization is "impressed" on different portions of similar material. Dr. Hertwig's book consists of a statement of his reasons for believing in epigenesis. Most of them are based on data gained during investigations of cell structure and growth, and by means of experiments on the lower forms of organized matter. Dr. Hertwig's name is associated with many of the most important advances in our knowledge of cells and embryology, and his views on the question in dispute are of the utmost value. In his introduction the translator has given a brief general statement of the early stages in the development of the vertebrate, which is intended as a help for readers not familiar with the subject of embryology.

We have just received a third edition of Dr. Brinton's Myths of the New World. The first edition, which appeared so long ago as 1868, has been somewhat superseded by later publications, and, while many of the recent contributions to the subject are not considered by Dr. Brinton to be as satisfactory as the work of the earlier writers, many of the opinions put forward in the original work as theories have now been accepted by most students of mythology, and require a restatement in more emphatic form. In its original edition the work was intended more for the thoughtful general reader than for the antiquary, and this idea has been kept in mind during the revision. There is a useful bibliography appended. (Philadelphia: David McKay, $2.)

The Coming Ice Age, by C. A. M. Taber, is an attempt to show the manner in which an ice age is being brought about, and is an extension, the author says, of a treatise published in 1894 on The Cause of Warm and Frigid Zones. The author's notion seems to be that ocean currents, in conjunction with winds and slight modifications in coast line, are sufficient to bring about the great changes in climate necessary to produce a glacial epoch in present temperate regions. The author sums up as follows: "Consequently, there seems to be no method yet devised through Nature's mode of action that can carry sufficient heat into the antarctic latitudes to melt the ice sheets from the southern continent, or even arrest their growth, while the Cape Horn channel maintains its present width and depth. Therefore the increase of glaciers and icebergs will slowly continue until a glacial epoch is perfected."

The Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science for the years 1893–’94 has just come to hand. The volume begins with an article by the retiring president, entitled "Small Things," in which he calls attention to the great importance in scientific investigation of apparently trivial details. There are a number of mathematical papers, among which may be mentioned The Inverse of Conics and Conchoids from the Center, and Harmonic Forms. A long and well-illustrated account of Kansas Mosses is the most important paper in the botanical section. Mr. Robert Hay contributes a paper on the Economic Geology of the River Counties of Kansas, to which is appended an exhaustive bibliography.

Modern Optical Instruments, by Henry Orford, is intended apparently as an elementary text-book of practical optics. The construction and properties of the human eye are described in the earlier pages, as are also some of the commoner aberrations and defects to which our eyes are subject. The following chapters, which deal with the theory and practice of ophthalmoscopic examination, with the various forms of spectacles and the principles governing their use and selection, the stereoscope, the optical lantern, and the spectroscope, contain a very good elementary consideration of these various subjects. (Macmillan, 80 cents.)

Special Method in Natural Science is the title of No. 4 of a series of special methods in the common-school studies. It is intended to give the teacher "a general view of the problem of science-teaching." As in most books of this class, many of the suggestions seem trivial and unnecessary. Some of the hints, however, are good, and very possibly the others may be useful to that large class of teachers who are such through "circumstances," and not because of any special training or ability which they have for teaching. (Public School Publishing Company, Washington, Ill., 50 cents.)

An extended work on Oceanic Ichthyology, by the late Dr. George Brown Goode and Dr. Tarleton H. Bean, has been issued by the Smithsonian Institution. It consists of technical descriptions of all forms of fishes found in the seas of the world, accompanied by an atlas of 123 plates bearing 417 figures. The text forms a volume of 553 quarto pages and contains many new facts. This treatise appears at a time when no deep-sea explorations are in progress, and the final ichthyological results of all past expeditions have been published. The authors have aimed to assemble in it all existing scientific data concerning oceanic fishes, and it is not likely to be superseded as an authority for many years. Its preparation was carried on in great part amid the pressure of official duties. It was first ready for printing in 1885, was revised and rewritten in 1888 and in 1891, and again in 1894 as it was going through the press, these changes being made necessary by successive publications of new material. For the senior author, whose death occurred within the same month in which it was issued, this is a truly monumental work.

The Tenth Annual Report of the Commissioner of Labor, for 1894, makes a thick octavo volume and another about half as thick. It is devoted to strikes and lockouts, covering those occurring in the United States from January, 1887, to June, 1894, and forming a continuation of the Third Annual Report. For each disturbance there are given the occupation and number of the workers concerned, locality, cause or object, duration, whether successful or not, losses to employers and employees, etc. The main table of strikes is arranged by States, years, and industries, and occupies over 1200 pages of the first volume. The lockouts are presented in a table of 108 pages. The second volume contains summary tables in which the same information is presented from various aspects. From the commissioner's analysis of the tables, it appears that, of the 10,487 strikes occurring in the seven years and a half, 43·52 per cent were successful, 10·19 per cent partly successful, and 46·28 per cent failed. Of the lockouts—four or five hundred in all -48·87 per cent were successful, 10·15 per cent partly so, and 40·44 per cent failed. For the whole period of thirteen years and a half covered by the Third and Tenth Reports together, the loss to employees from strikes was, in round numbers, $164,000,000; from lockouts, $27,000,000. The losses to employers from the same causes were $83,000,000 and $12,000,000 respectively.

The Pedagogical Series of papers issued by the University of Pennsylvania has for its first number an account of Three Typical Educational Systems, by Lewis R. Harley, Ph. D. This consists of outlines of the public-school systems of Massachusetts, New York, and Michigan. While often referring to the origin of certain features, Dr. Harley has not undertaken to give a history of school administration in these three States, but rather to represent it as it exists.

The memoir on the discovery of Argon with which Lord Rayleigh and Prof. William Ramsay won the Hodgkins-Fund prize has been issued as one of the Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge. This remarkable discovery has been widely described in both technical and popular journals, and a revised version of the memoir has been published in the Philosophical Transactions. The paper is here presented in the form in which it was submitted to the committee.

The Peabody Museum at Cambridge has begun a series of quarto publications with a memoir on Prehistoric Ruins of Copan, Honduras, being a preliminary report of the explorations made by the museum from 1891 to 1895. This report has been compiled by George B. Gordon from his field notes and those of Marshall H. Saville and John G. Owens, who at different times have carried on the explorations under the direction of the museum. It is intended to give only a general description of the ruins and a summary of the work of the several expeditions. It will be followed by special papers on the discoveries made. The museum has had the co-operation of Alfred P. Maudslay, the English explorer of Central America, and has adopted the names, letters, and numbers with which he has designated various portions of the ruins and some prominent sculptures, while for new features the letters and figures have been continued in sequence. The memoir is illustrated with a plan of the ruins and a considerable number of plates and figures representing stelæ, altars, and other pieces of sculpture. The explorations were made possible by the contributions of subscribers, whose names appear in the report.

It is a serious warning that is put into story form in Cursed before Birth, by J. H. Tilden, M. D. (the author, Denver)—a warning to women who shirk the cares of motherhood, to girls who think it is a benefit to be noticed by old and wealthy men, and to young men on whose shoulders rests the guardianship of a home. It is a warning also to those rapacious miscreants who imagine that they can prey upon the virtue of their communities without coming to a day of reckoning. Dr. Tilden writes with much earnestness, and there are many who should heed his admonition.

An elementary book under the title Uncle Sam's Letters on Phrenology, originally published in 1842, has been reprinted recently (Fowler & Wells Company, paper, 50 cents). The letters are written in a familiar style, with considerable pleasantry, and contain many illustrative anecdotes and allusions to public men and affairs of fifty years ago.

On account of the important position occupied by the alternating current transformer in systems of distribution for light and power. Prof. Frederick Bedell, of Cornell University, has been led to prepare a treatise on The Principles of the Transformer. "Ten years ago," the author remarks in his preface, "the transformer was born, and in one decade it has attained its maturity. During its development it has been the subject of much investigation and study and has been carefully considered from every standpoint, so that complete novelty of treatment is now scarcely looked for—in fact, would not be desirable. There is a demand, however, for a united and logical exposition of the principles involved. To this end the writer has turned his efforts and contributes the following pages." The subject has been kept within well-defined limits. Thus, while systems of distribution are briefly reviewed as bearing directly upon the principles of the apparatus, the subjects of fuel and boilers and of central-station operation have been excluded as irrelevant. The theory of the alternator is given in brief. The author has taken especial pains to make his book tend toward uniformity rather than diversity in notation. The C. G. S. system has been used for expressing magnetic quantities for the reason that international agreement as to names for magnetic units has not yet been secured. In elucidating the principles set forth, two hundred and fifty diagrams and other cuts are used, and the volume is adequately indexed.

The School Algebra, by Emerson E. White (American Book Company, $1), has among its distinctive features the early introduction of the equation, the application of arithmetical approaches to algebraic processes and principles, and the immediate application of facts and principles in simple exercises. Processes that do not appear generally in school algebras are the multiplication and division of polynomials by detached coefficients; a general method of factoring trinomials; the solution of quadratic equations by factoring; and in the closing chapters a simple treatment of undetermined coefficients, determinants, and curve tracing.

The Romance of Industry and Invention, consisting of articles selected by Robert Cochrane from the pages of Chambers's Journal, with additions, is a nice book for Scotch and English readers, but we fail to see why it should come to America (Lippincott, $1.25). One would suppose from reading it that the biography of the Englishman Wedgwood was the whole history of the pottery industry; that America has no cotton mills, but only serves with India and Egypt to furnish raw material to England; that only the gold fields in British possessions are worth more than a mere allusion, while Ericsson's Monitor with its revolving turret never existed. On the other hand, it does appear that the chief inventors of sewing machines were Americans; more credit is given to Morse for the telegraph and Field for the Atlantic cable than is usual in British popular writings; while Bell and Edison can not be hidden in any account of their inventions; and there is actually a distinct admission that "from the time of their last war with us down to within a quarter of a century ago our Yankee neighbors generally seemed to be a little ahead of this country in maritime matters."

A graphic lesson in The Effects of Erosion, due to forest destruction, is afforded in a chart recently issued by the United States Department of Agriculture. It bears three colored pictures showing respectively How the Farm is Lost, How the Farm is Regained, and How the Farm is Retained, each accompanied by a few lines of explanation and counsel.

In August, 1896, the first number of The Hypnotic Magazine appeared (Psychic Publishing Company, Chicago, $2.50 a year). It is edited by Sydney Flower and is devoted to "an investigation of the science of hypnotism, its uses and abuses, and its therapeutic possibilities." Among the articles in the first number is a report by Herbert A. Parkyn, M. D., of cases treated in the daily clinic conducted by him in Chicago. Other contributors are Charles G. Davis, M. D., W. L. Stevenson, M. D., and W. X, Sudduth, M. D. The contributors, although showing the confidence of enthusiasts, succeed in avoiding the extravagances that sometimes make hypnotism ridiculous, while the tone of the Introduction and other editorial expressions is modest and enlightened.

Visible Speech is a system of speech notation which uses symbols designed to suggest the proper positions of the vocal organs. It has been presented to the public by its author. Prof Alexander Melville Bell, in books adapted to a variety of needs. One now before us, English Visible Speech in Twelve Lessons (Volta Bureau, Washington, 50 cents), is intended as a first book for the use of children, foreigners, and the deaf in learning to read English. Each lesson is accompanied by cuts showing the positions of the vocal organs denoted by the new symbols introduced in that lesson, and by a page of directions for the teacher. There is also a table of vowels occurring in foreign languages. The first few reading exercises are adapted to children—most of the others to adults.

Under the title Cheerful Philosophy for Thoughtful Invalids, a little book of forty pages has been published by William H. Clarke, which is well calculated to aid those bodily afflicted in rendering their lives "less burdensome to themselves and more useful to others." While it is religious in tone it is not sanctimonious, and the practical application of its encouraging counsel is shown in several anecdotes (E. T. Clarke & Co., Reading, Mass., 50 cents).

According to the Report of the United States Life-Saving Service, the number of disasters within the scope of the service during the year 1894–’95 exceeded that of any previous year by seventy-nine. This large excess was in part due to the extension of the service, but chiefly to the conditions of weather which prevailed. The proportion of loss of life and likewise of property was smaller than in any year but one since the general extension of the service on the sea and lake coasts. The general superintendent still finds it necessary to urge upon Congress a more liberal and discriminating scale of payment for district superintendents and surfmen.

The somewhat ambiguous title of The Nursery Book denotes a guide to the multiplication of plants by Prof. L. H. Bailey, the third edition of which appears in The Gardencraft Series (Macmillan, $1). While there is a short chapter devoted to methods of sowing seeds, the book is mainly occupied with grafting, cutting, and similar processes. A special feature is the alphabetical Nursery List, telling how every plant generally known to gardeners is propagated. There are also a glossary and an index. The descriptions are illustrated with one hundred and fifty-two cuts. For this edition, the author says, "the entire volume has been thoroughly ransacked and renovated."

  1. Chemistry in Daily Life. By Dr. Lassar-Cohn. Translated by M. M. Pattison Muir. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co. Pp. 324, 12mo. Price, $1.75.
  2. A Text-Book for Training Schools for Nurses. By P. M. Wise, M. D. 2 vols. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, Pp. 247 and 327, 12mo. Price, $1.25 each.
  3. The Earth and its Story. Boston, New York, and Chicago: Silver, Burdett & Co. Pp. 267, with Sixty four Plates.
  4. The Biological Problem of To-Day. By Prof. Dr. Oscar Hertwig. New York: The Macmillan Co. Pp. 148, 16 mo. Price, $1.25.