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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 50/November 1896/General Notices

GENERAL NOTICES.

The author of this suggestive and useful book[1] admits the deficiency in the teaching of English, and particularly of composition, in our schools, to which attention has been called in a committee report to the Board of Overseers of Harvard College, and attempts here, by a thoughtful discussion of the subject in its theoretical and practical aspects, to point out the way in which the standard of scholarship in the vernacular may be improved. The book has grown out of his own regular work, and its purpose is to state fully and illustrate clearly the principles that underlie all practical language culture, to emphasize the value of such culture—the education that grows directly out of the use and study of the vernacular—to present methods for carrying on the child's instruction in language-arts in harmony with the underlying principles, and to discuss grammar and rhetoric with reference to their educational value and their relation to the language-arts. The results of the best discussions of the subject, from those of the Roman Quintilian to those of Preyer and the American writers, are brought into the study. The language-arts are defined, the value of the vernacular as an educational instrument is estimated, the condition of the child's mind, his acquisition in speech, and the origin of his knowledge are inquired into, and the teaching of the language-arts in the elementary and lower grades and in the higher schools is discussed under the three aspects of the substance of thought, the form of thought, and literature as an art. The principles having been thus established, the subject is considered under the headings of The Art of Reading, Reading and Mental Cultivation, Requisites for Reading, Teaching Reading as an Art, Teaching Reading as Thought, Teaching Composition, Teaching English Literature, the functions severally of English grammar, rhetoric, and criticism, and Teachers of the Language-Arts (qualifications, etc.). A bibliography of twenty-one titles is appended.

 

In this book[2] the author considers a subject which he assumes, correctly as far as we know, has not hitherto received any systematic treatment from ornithologists—Mr. Simeon Pearce Cheney, an American, being the only one who has published a special work of any considerable pretensions upon it. Mr. Witchell first thought of making a scientific investigation of it in 1881, while listening to a nightingale, from observing the repetition of a particular feature in its strains. After an interval of some years he became interested in the song of a thrush, and from the thrush was led to observe mimicry in other birds. As his observations were continued, the results assumed shape and now justify embodiment in a book. First he seeks for the origin of the voice, and finds it, with Darwin, in involuntary movements of the muscles—the excitement of combat being a possible occasion. The combat cries are serviceable also for purposes of alarm. A further development in the faculty of song is the call-cry, and from this the transition is not very great to the simplest songs, which are fixed and further developed and varied by heredity and imitation. In the filling out of the plan thus sketched, a chapter is devoted to noticeable incidents connected with bird-song, the influence of heredity is discussed, the causes and effects of variation in bird-song and the influence of imitation are inquired into, and an attempt is made to express the songs of various birds in musical notation with transcripts of the music sung by black-birds, thrushes, and skylarks. The book covers a field not occupied by any of the numerous bird books now current, except, in part, by Mr. Cheney's, and will prove an acceptable complement to them.

 

The Year-Book of the United States Department of Agriculture for 1895 is the first volume published in accordance with the law of 1895 directing the separation in the reports of the executive and business matter intended for official information and those papers formerly incorporated in them "specially suited to interest and instruct the farmers of the country." We are very glad to find that the editors have sought to make it "a concise reference book of useful information. . . without making it an encyclopædia of general information"—"to make a book and not a mere Government report." It includes a general report of the operations of the department; the papers, presented in the form of popular essays rather than of scientific reports, which are its main reason for being; and an appendix, containing a large amount of miscellaneous matter taken from the reports of the department and presented with special regard to the requirements of the reader.

 

In the Nineteenth Report of the Illinois State Entomologist the first article details a series of experiments for the destruction of the chinch bug. A large portion of the remainder of the work treats of the parasitic and contagious diseases of insects, and details numerous experiments for the destruction of the noxious bugs by means of infecting them with some destructive disease. The last paper deals with the white ant, which it seems annually does much damage in Illinois.

 

The second of the popular writings of Thomas Paine that has been reprinted from the complete works edited by Moncure D. Conway is The Age of Reason (Putnams, $1.25). In this form it makes a volume of two hundred pages, octavo. The new edition will doubtless enable many persons to learn that the book is not atheistic, as they have been told, but deistic; that it is not blasphemous, but its whole tenor is. There is one God, and He is too great and good to be charged with the ignorant and wicked acts of men that are recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures.

 

The Administrative Report of the Thirteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology (1891, 1892) presents a historical review of the development of the plan of the work of the bureau, which from a seemingly simple beginning has been found to involve some highly complex problems, and in which many lines of investigation have been opened. Seven publications were issued during the year. The general account of the work of the agents of the bureau during the year covered by the report is followed by a general summary of the special papers which compose the larger part of the volume. These papers are: Prehistoric Textile Art in the United States, by W. H. Holmes; Stone Art, by Gerard Fowke; Aboriginal Remains in Verde Valley, Arizona, by Cosmas Mindeleff; Omaha Dwellings, Furniture, and Implements, by J. Owen Dorsey; Casa Grande Ruin, by Cosmas Mindeleff; and Outlines of Zuni Creation Myths, by Frank Hamilton Cushing.

 

The Miscellaneous Papers by Heinrich Hertz, in an authorized English translation by D. E. Jones and G. A. Schott, published by the Macmillan Company, form the first volume of the author's collected works, as edited by Dr. Philipp Lenard. The second volume is a reprint of his Researches on the Propagation of Electric Action (already published in English as Electric Waves), and the third volume consists of his Principles of Mechanics, of which an English translation is in press. The papers here included represent chiefly the earlier investigations which the author carried out before his electrical researches; but the last three—the Heidelberg lecture on the Relations between Light and Electricity, an experimental investigation of the passage of the cathode rays through thin metallic tubes, and a tribute to Helmholtz, are of later dates. Nearly all the papers are extremely technical. In the introduction Prof. Lenard gives a brief history of Hertz's career in investigation, with notices of the occasions on which some of the papers were composed, illustrated by liberal extracts from the author's letters to his parents.

 

The Report of the Missouri Botanical Garden for 1895, the seventh annual report, is a favorable one in all respects. The finances are entirely satisfactory, the receipts from rentals having been increased by $7,500; profitable improvements and valuable additions have been made in the garden; a larger number of visitors by one third were recorded than in 1894, and they "showed no disposition to vandalism"; the herbarium has been added to, and now contains 242,162 specimens, valued at $24,216; besides 4,807 wood specimens and veneers and microscopic slides of woods; and the library contains 20,549 volumes and pamphlets. The scientific papers appended to the report include one by Dr. Trelease on the Juglandaceœ of the United States, particularly the hickories, described with reference to their winter characteristics; a study of the Agaves of the United States, by A. Isabel Mulford; an account of the ligulate Wolffias—plants of the Duckweed family—of the United States, by Charles Henry Thompson; an address by President Henry W. Rogers, of Northwestern University, on the Value of a Study of Botany; and a catalogue of the Sturtevant Prelinnæan Library—a gift of early Herbals, Natural Histories, and Medical Botanies, made to the institution by Dr. E. Lewis Sturtevant, of South Framingham, Mass.

 

The Annual Report of the State Geologist of New Jersey for 1894-'95 relates to the Surface Geology, the Archæan Geology, Artesian Wells and Water Supply, and Forestry. In surface geology Prof. Salisbury made a general reconnaissance of the southeastern parts of the State, and Mr. G. O. Knapp of the southwestern; and the field work on the surface formations is now done over nearly all the State. Work was continued over the Cretaceous and Tertiary formations, the Red Sandstone formation, and the crystalline rocks of the Highlands; and special attention continues to be given to artesian wells, drainage, and natural parks and forest reservations. Of the special papers on these subjects we note that on forestry as being most timely and full and definite; and the subject of forest fires receives in it a very satisfactory discussion.

 

A pamphlet on Oxides, the first of a series under the general title. Chemistry at a Glance, has been prepared by Herbert B. Tuttle. After some introductory matter on chemical physics, and a list of elements, there follows a list of radicals with a graphic formula for each. About half the pamphlet is occupied by a list of oxides, giving the properties and a graphic formula for each, and there is a similar but shorter list of compounds that the author groups under the name "oxate." (The author. New York, 60 cents.)

 

The contents of the Twentieth Annual Report of the Department of Geology and Natural Resources of Indiana for 1895 pertain almost wholly to economic geology. The introductory portion embodies a general review of the natural fuels of the State (coal, petroleum, and natural gas), its resources other than fuels, its natural history, the condition of the State Museum which is under-going a scientific classification—and an account of the office work of the department. The special reports concern the clays and clay industries of the coal-bearing counties by the State Geologist, W. S. Blatchley; the carboniferous sandstones of western Indiana, by T. C. Hopkins; the whetstone and grindstone rocks, by Edward M. Kindle; and the crawfishes of Indiana, by W. P. Hay; besides which the reports of the State natural gas supervisor, the inspector of mines, and the oil inspector for 1894-95 are given.

 

Volume XV of the Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission—the volume for 1895—consists of ten papers, most of which have also been issued separately. A notably comprehensive study of the habits and development of the American lobster, by Prof. Francis H. Herrick, occupies the first two hundred and fifty pages of the volume. Prof. Herrick has devoted to this subject all the time that he could spare from professorial duties during the past five years, and has used each summer the facilities of the Woods Hole Laboratory. The monograph is accompanied by over sixty finely drawn and engraved plates, a number of which are colored. An account of the attempts to acclimatize fish and other water animals in the Pacific States is the subject of a paper by Hugh M. Smith, M. D. Thirty-one species of fish, the lobster, the Eastern oyster, and the soft clam are mentioned as subjects of these experiments the best results being obtained with shad, bass, carp, and catfish. Shorter papers deal with salmon investigations in Idaho, oyster beds of Alabama, the menhaden fishery, etc.

 

The Chief Fire Warden of Minnesota has issued his First Annual Report, and the document gives evidence of able and energetic work on his part during the year 1895. It contains a copy of the act under which protection of the forests and prairies of the State from fire has been organized, a copy of a warning placard, eighteen thousand copies of which were printed on cloth and posted in the districts liable to fires, a list of the town fire wardens, and statistics of forest and prairie fires in 1895. Owing to wet weather the year affords a much smaller record of destructive fires than 1894. A valuable and interesting feature of the report consists in answers of local wardens to questions as to the effect of the placards, the sentiment of their communities as to forest preservation, and ways in which fires can be prevented more effectually; also answers from lumber-men to a set of questions on present methods of lumbering. Means for preventing the starting of fires by sparks from locomotives, and other topics, are also discussed.

 

Volume V of the Report of the Iowa Geological Survey, 1895, is accompanied, like its immediate predecessor, by reports on six counties of the State. Each of these reports describes the geological formations of the county, and gives the location and character of its economic deposits. Of the latter the most valuable are the soil and its water supply, although this fact is frequently overlooked, and there are also clays, building stone, and some coal.

 

Among recent bulletins of the University of Wisconsin is one on The Problem of Economical Heat, Light, and Power Supply for Building Blocks, Schoolhouses, Dwellings, etc., by G. A. Gerdtzen, B. S. From the engineering standpoint the author discusses the relative efficiency of electricity, steam, and gas in furnishing heat, light, and power, and arrives at a result which favors gas produced by a combination of retort and water-gas processes.

 

We heartily agree with the view of Locke quoted in the front of the new edition of Alfred Ayres's Verbalist—"If a gentleman be to study any language, it ought to be that of his own country." Science and the mother-tongue have been firm allies in the conflict against the monopolistic pretensions of the classics, and each rejoices in the other's success. If one has anything to say, The Verbalist will help him to say it in the most effective way. While the book is mainly concerned with pointing out errors in the use of words, it gives also instructions in punctuation and in the use of the figures of speech, and there are helpful articles on British against American usage in both diction and pronunciation, misplaced words, the use of Latin phrases, threadbare quotations, verbiage, etc. In its new edition the book has nearly fifty per cent more matter than it had on its first appearance fifteen years ago, and, although the words treated are arranged alphabetically, an index has been added to insure the ready finding of every bit of information that the volume contains. (Appletons, $1.25).

 

The Wagner Free Institute of Science, of Philadelphia, issues in Volume IV of its Transactions a memoir by Dr. Joseph Leidy on Fossil Vertebrates from the Alachua Clays of Florida. Dr. Leidy was engaged on this memoir at the time of his death, and it has been completed and edited by Frederic A. Lucas. The specimens on which it is based are chiefly the bones and teeth of a species of rhinoceros and of a mastodon. Others pertain to three species of llama, to two of hippotherium, to a tapir, another species of rhinoceros, a mastodon, and a megatherium.

 

The chief articles in Nos. 4 and 5 of the Bulletin of the Department of Labor, May and July, 1896, are chapters iii and iv of the papers on Industrial Communities, by W. F. Willoughby, describing respectively the village of the Coal Mining Company of Blanzy, France, and that of the Iron and Steel Works of Friedrich Krupp, Essen, Germany. No. 4 contains also an article on the Sweating System, by Henry White, General Secretary of the United Garment Workers of America, in which statistics and abstracts of recent legislation are given. In No. 5 there is a set of statistics and an abstract of laws passed since 1885 concerning convict labor, which brings the greater part of the information in the special report of the department on this subject, made in 1886, down to date. Both numbers contain currrent information on a variety of other matters affecting labor.

 

Mr. George Haven Putnam has brought out a second edition of his Question of Copyright (Putnams, $1.75)—a book that is at once a valuable manual and a memorial of a noble struggle for honest dealings with foreign authors. The new edition brings the record of copyright laws in the chief countries of the world down to March, 1896; it contains a chapter on the results of the United States law of 1891, a summary of lawsuits concerned with the international provisions of that law, and other new matter. In a preface to the new edition Mr. Putnam, while admitting that our law works better than the friends of international copyright expected, points out ways in which he believes it should be modified.

 

  1. Teaching the Language-Arts: Speaking, Reading, Composition. By B. A. Hinsdale. New York: D. Appleton & Co. (International Education Series). Pp. 205, 8vo. Price, $1.
  2. The Evolution of Bird-Song, with Observations on the Influence of Heredity and Imitation.