Popular Science Monthly/Volume 51/October 1897/General Notices


An Experiment in Education[1] is a suggestive little volume setting forth, in about two hundred and fifty pages, the experiment of a thoughtful teacher in introducing young children at once into the elements of knowledge along novel lines of instruction; and it touches furthermore on the principles underlying the experiment. Readers of Appletons' Popular Science Monthly are already familiar with the main ideas of the book, two of the chapters dealing with the actual experiment in Boston and in Englewood, III, having appeared as separate papers in previous issues of the magazine. The author, after teaching for ten years in high and normal schools, found that from "one half to one third of the time allotted to a subject had been spent in teaching the student how to use his mind, to use books, specimens, etc.—in other words, how to study. This waste was irritating and pitiable in view of the short time allowed to subjects, and I could not be reconciled to the notion that an adult mind must so generally lack power to work economically, trustworthily, and discriminatingly." To overcome this deficiency, and to ingrain into the mind of the child from the very start habits of accurate observation and independence of judgment, became the object of the teacher; and natural-science studies, as lending themselves most readily to object lessons, where the child could be taught to observe facts and to verify his experience, were made the basis of instruction. Reading and writing were taught by means of the blackboard, and the children constructed their own primers and copy-books out of the material drawn from their science lessons. Thus, instead of wasting time over the mere tools of learning or trite facts of everyday life, they from the very start became familiar with the elements of knowledge. In place of text-books, the Socratic method was applied—drawing out of the children by skillful questioning the facts they were to observe. Instead of taxing the memory with useless lumber, the eye was trained to see and the mind to form independent judgments. The experiment in Boston was made with the children of the primary department in a private school, and was highly successful as far as it went. That the principles could be equally well applied to larger classes was proved in some of the public schools of Englewood, III., where they found enthusiastic adherents in many of the teachers.

The ideas underlying the experiment are explained in the second part of the book, and are in sum that "children must at once be introduced to real knowledge, be given something worth their efforts, and treated as rational human beings, who ought not, even if they could, be made to greatly care for the symbols and shows of learning in the absence of the real substance, nor led to imagine that they were being mentally and morally nourished—that is, educated—when fed on chaff mainly." This part deals with the Quality of Studies, the Order of Studies, the Effects of Studies, and the Ends to be served by Studies—all with the view of producing a fully rounded, keen-eyed, alert, and self-dependent man or woman, able to do his share in the world's work, and to fill his place in the social order—in short, to attain to his highest development while fully sympathizing with the endeavors of his fellows. The doers of mankind are to be developed; the dreamers find no place in the author's scheme of education.

Part III gives some details about the teaching of special subjects, including Science, History, Literature, Language, Mathematics, Industrial Training, Means of Expression, and a chapter for mothers entitled At Home, indicating in what ways a mother may awaken her child's powers of observation. Part IV gives some suggestions about the atmosphere of the schoolroom. The experiment was made in 1881, when "natural-science studies had not been made an integral part of any primary schoolroom, and literature and history in such grades were mostly unthought of." Long strides in advance have of course been made in the sixteen years intervening; still, the book can not fail to arouse into more thoughtful activity many teachers, and it should especially appeal to mothers and to educators who advocate individual instruction. What may by some be considered an objection to the system is that it makes enormous demands on the ingenuity of the teacher, for in place of the routine of the schoolroom it puts individual thinking.

Mr. Moore's brief treatise on the Philosophy of Art[2] is a thoughtful study, by a man who has had time and opportunity to give full attention to the subject from the literary rather than the evolutional point of view, of the origin and nature of the arts, which he classifies as those appealing to the sight and to the hearing. The author regards them all as primarily the outgrowth of necessity, and esteems as the most interesting feature of his inquiry the paradoxical nature of the transition from the original condition and purposes of art to its later and present uses.

A new work on geology, both suitable for a college text-book and very attractive to the general reader, has been written by Prof. Scott, of Princeton.[3]The author's plan has been to make a book dealing principally with American geology, after the style of Sir Archibald Geikie's Class Book. Its American character is a marked feature of the present work. It is clearly advantageous, the author remarks, that we should make use of our own country in selecting typical facts for study. Accordingly, the formations that he describes and figures are nearly all American. Prof. Scott has had the use of a great deal of material collected for the United States Geological Survey, and a large part of his nearly three hundred figures are reproduced from photographs taken for the survey. Prof. Scott does not make much use of diagrams, evidently preferring to show the reader the actual appearance of the examples that may be seen in the field. The value of field study is strongly emphasized by him. Dynamical geology is the first of the large divisions of the subject that he considers, beginning with igneous agencies, but for students who begin a study of the subject in the fall he advises taking up other chapters first. He makes a special division of the work under the title Physiographical Geology, in which he has three chapters dealing with the changes in topography effected by geological agencies, and the clews which topographical features give in tracing past geological operations. A little more than one third of the work is devoted to historical or stratigraphical geology. Here, while both American and foreign formations and fossils are described, the foreign are always placed in a separate paragraph after the American with a distinctive heading. A table of the more important European formations is appended to the volume, but few of the subdivisions having been mentioned in the text. Another appendix contains the system of classification of the animals and plants which has been used in the book. There is a full index, and the mechanical execution of the volume is of a high order.

Prof. Storer's work on the chemistry of agriculture, which first appeared in 1887 and was revised in 1892, has been again revised.[4] It is based on the lectures which the author has delivered at the Bussey Institution, a department of Harvard University, now for twenty-five years. The chemical nature and behavior toward plants of every substance that has been used to any extent as a fertilizer are set forth in these volumes. Other subjects discussed are the relations of water to the soil, the effects of tillage, rotation of crops, the management of hay and grain crops, the production of ensilage, etc. The additions that have been made in this edition, and the fact that it has been entirely reset in larger type, have necessitated printing the work in three volumes instead of two as heretofore.

The second volume of Britton and Brown's Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States,[5] etc., gives the families, genera, and species from Portulaca to the dogwoods and tupelos, seventy-two families, in Choripetalœ; and from the clethras to Buckbean, sixteen families, in Gamopetalœ. We have already indicated, in our notice of the first volume of this work, its general character and scope. We have to refer specially here chiefly to the pains which are taken to make the work as a whole and the particular descriptions plain to the most untechnical reader. Every species is figured as to general habits, leaf, flower, and fruit; English names are given or the botanical names are translated into meaning English for each family, genus, and species; and English measures are used, so that the plain student may conceive at once and as if with his eyes shut the dimension indicated without having to look at a scale or make a mathematical reduction. Complete indexes are provided of English and of Latin names.

Mr. Thayer's essay on the Hebrews in Egypt and their Exodus[6] is an attempt to find if there be not in the Pentateuch a reasonably credible, historic narrative which may be accepted with as much confidence as any other chapter of history so ancient. The argument is, in brief, that, owing to the strong race feeling of the Jews, the genealogies of their families were the most carefully recorded and the most uniformly coherent, consistent, and jealously preserved part of their history; that here we shall find firm ground to stand on, if anywhere; that the annals of the Pharaohs as now accepted by Egyptologists support and confirm these genealogies; and through these is to be traced the real thread of historic truth. While the author does not hold to the usually accepted views concerning the Pentateuch, he has no sympathy with what is called the destructive school of criticism. His argument is, on the contrary, intended to be constructive and preservative.

"A practical treatise for practical men" is what Dr. Louis Bell has aimed to make his recent book on Electric Power Transmission (Johnston Co., $2.50). After some discussion of elementary electrical principles and transmission of power by other than electrical means, he gives a chapter to power transmission by continuous currents, which up to the present time is the commoner mode. He then takes up the coming mode of power transmission, namely, by alternating currents. He points out the properties of alternating circuits that have a direct bearing on power transmission, and discusses monophase, polyphase, and heterophase systems and the forms of apparatus used with each. A chapter is given to apparatus for changing alternating to direct currents or the reverse. Dr. Bell goes outside the strict limits of his title to treat of steam engines and of the development and use of water power. The organization of a power station, line construction, and the various problems of distribution, including the commercial problem, are all discussed in more or less detail. The volume contains over two hundred diagrams and other illustrations, including several halftone plates.

The Macmillan Company has issued for Dr. Charles B. Davenport the first part of a work on Experimental Morphology, to be completed in four parts. This part is devoted to the effects of chemical and physical agents upon protoplasm as determined by experiments. The chief chemical agents whose influence on the vital actions of protoplasm is examined are oxygen, hydrogen, oxides of carbon, ammonia, and various poisons. Among the physical agents experimented with are the forces heat, light, and electricity; the effects of moisture and dryness, of different densities of the containing solution, of molar agents, and of gravity are also passed in review. The influence of each agent on the direction of locomotion of the protoplasm is among the effects considered. Following each, chapter is a list of literature on the subject of the chapter. The work is designed as a contribution to the fundamental question. Why does an organism develop as it does? Of the two classes of causes that influence development, Dr. Davenport has confined himself to the external causes. The three parts of the work to follow will deal respectively with growth, cell division, and differentiation. (Price, $2.60.)

The United States Geological Survey is publishing a geologic map of the United States with a topographic base map. It is being issued in parts, called folios, each covering a small area. Thus the Yellowstone National Park Folio contains four topo graphic sheets, known as the Gallatin, Canyon, Lake, and Shoshone sheets, and four geologic sheets of the same districts. The scale is about half an inch to a mile, and the contour interval is one hundred feet. Contours and elevations are printed in brown, water courses in blue, and the works of man, such as roads, railroads, and towns, are printed in black. The geologic formations are indicated by systematic coloring. There are also eleven photo-engravings of views in the region covered, and six folio pages of description. The plan of the map is explained on the two inside cover pages. The Survey has a circular telling the prices at which the several parts are sold.

An atlas of Illustrations showing Condition of Fur-seal Rookeries in 1895 and Method of Killing Seals has been printed as a Senate document to accompany the report of C. H. Townsend. It contains forty-six plates, many of them folded, the greater part of which are views on St. Paul and St. George Islands, showing the seals on the beaches. Six plates show the processes of killing and skinning the seals.

In the Fourteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, covering the year 1892–‘93, the director, Major J. W. Powell, describes the work of the year, which included investigations along a number of distinct lines. The immediate purpose in organizing this bureau was "the discovery of the relations among the native American tribes, to the end that amicable groups might be gathered on reservations. It was early found that classification by somatologic (physical) characters was useless for the purpose in view, while a grouping by language, governmental institutions, religion, industries, and arts brought together tribes who could live in proximity with little or no strife. In general, language alone will serve as a satisfactory basis for this practical grouping, and readers familiar with the previous publications of the bureau have noticed the large share of attention that has been given to Indian languages, both spoken and written in pictograph. The present report is accompanied by three extended papers. One of these, on The Menomini Indians, by Dr. Walter J. Hoffman, describes the ritual of the Mitawit (Grand Medicine Society), into which he was duly initiated, and gives a considerable collection of Menomini mythology and folklore, together with descriptions of many of the arts and customs of this tribe and a vocabulary of its language. The memoir is illustrated with many full-page plates and smaller cuts. The results results of a historical research appear in a paper on The Coronado Expedition, 1540–’42, by George P. Winship, of Harvard University. This expedition was sent out by Mendoza, Governor of "New Spain," in southern Mexico, and discovered the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, the Grand Canon of the Colorado, and the bison of the great plains. Mr. Winship presents the original text of Coronado's report and an English translation, together with translations of shorter papers relating to the expedition, and a historical introduction giving the events which led up to this undertaking and the circumstances under which it was carried out. Many reproductions of sixteenth-century maps and modern pictures of Pueblo Indians and their dwellings accompany the memoir. The ghost dance, which has been for half a dozen years a word to inspire terror in reports from the Indian reservations, is described by James Mooney in his paper on The Ghost-dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890. The dance is the manifestation of an epidemic of religious frenzy which was transmitted from tribe to tribe over one third of the area of the United States and then died away. Mr. Mooney accompanies his account with descriptions of similar rites among the Indians and similar frenzies among Christians and Mohammedans. The memoir is copiously illustrated.

Nearly two thirds of the volume containing the Report of the United States Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries for 1895 is devoted to a Check List of the Fishes and Fishlike Vertebrates of North and Middle America, by Jordan and Evermann. Owing to ill health, the late Commissioner McDonald was unable to prepare a report, and the work of the year is shown in the reports of assistants. Several special investigations are described in appended papers.

The statistical matter in the eighth annual report of the Interstate Commerce Commission on the Statistics of Railways in the United States follows the same order and covers the same ground as in previous years. It yields many evidences of continued business depression, although there has been a net decrease of twenty-three in the number of roads in the hands of receivers. Special features of this report are, first, comparisons not only with the preceding year, but so far as possible with the years from 1890 to 1894 inclusive; second, the compilation of operating expenses for 1894 and 1895; and, third, the table showing revenue and density of traffic for all roads whose gross revenue exceeds $3,000,000 a year.

The aim of Appletons' Home-Reading Books evidently is to give young persons a broader view of the world in which their lives are to be passed than they can get from their school books. It is not necessary that all knowledge should be gained by drudgery over set tasks; much may be imparted by books like these, which interest at the same time that they inform. In the little volume on The Plant World which he has prepared for this series, Mr. Frank Vincent has made an excellent collection of the romances and realities of the botanical kingdom. He has taken from the writings of American and foreign naturalists selections describing plants remarkable for their beauty, size, peculiar form, or great usefulness, and has scattered among them a few tributes from the poets. Mr. Vincent has not sought for the remote or startling alone. He calls upon Bonifas-Guizot to tell the uses of the cocoanut tree, and Paul Marcoy to describe the Victoria Regia, but he has also something about common grasses by Margaret Plues, and includes Whittier's poem on the pumpkin. Mr. Vincent has been in every quarter of the globe himself, and may be depended upon to select only accurate descriptions of foreign plants. Fifteen fullpage photo-engravings add to the attractiveness of the volume. (Appletons, 60 cents, net.)

Prof. Edward L. Nichols, already favorably known as an author of text books on physics, has produced an elementary work, under the title The Outlines of Physics, which is intended to be a fair equivalent for the year of advanced mathematics now required for entrance to many colleges (Macmillan, $1.40). In order to possess sufficient disciplinary value for this purpose, says the author, "physics must be taught by laboratory methods, and the experiments should be, as far as possible, of a quantitative nature." This book is designed as a text-book and a laboratory guide combined. "In the selection of the methods and of the apparatus used," Prof. Nichols continues, "I have always had in view the greatest possible directness and simplicity, rather than the highest degree of accuracy. The inexperience and the immaturity of the reader and the necessarily inadequate equipment of school laboratories have been likewise borne in mind." The applications of physics to the arts, which in some books are pointed to with pride, he has rigidly excluded. As in most elementary works, mechanics, being the simplest division of the science, comes first, and the chapter here includes something of hydrostatics and pneumatics. This is followed by heat; while electricity, often left till the last, comes third, being followed by sound and light. Practical directions on the use of apparatus are given in appendixes. Four hundred and fourteen cuts, nearly all from new drawings, illustrate the text.

The extraordinary activity in the determination of atomic weights since 1884, resulting in the accumulation of a great mass of new material, has led Prof. F. W. Clarke to prepare a revised and enlarged edition of his Recalculation of the Atomic Weights. It appears as Part V of the series of volumes on the constants of nature published by the Smithsonian Institution.

The small treatise on Metals in the Textbooks of Science Series, a new edition of which has been prepared by A. K. Huntington and W. G. McMillan, is based on one by Bloxam published in 1872, and rewritten by Prof. Huntington in 1882 (Longmans, $2.50). Its aim is "to make clear the principles which have guided the evolution of the metallurgical arts and industries, avoiding multiplicity of detail, which tends to obscure main issues." The volume opens with an extended chapter on the characters and modes of preparing the various fuels used in metallurgy, from charcoal to water gas. Several forms of apparatus for producing or utilizing various kinds of gas are also described. This chapter is followed by a few pages on refractory materials and fluxes. In passing to the treatment of the various metals, their common properties are set forth and certain general processes for crushing, dressing, and roasting ores are described. Because of its importance iron is given first place, and nearly two thirds as much space is devoted to it as to all other metals together. The chief ores of iron are described, and something is told of the Catalan and other primitive smelting methods. The various processes in present use for the production of iron and steel are then described, particular care being given to stating the reasons for each step, and to telling the properties of combinations of iron with small quantities of other elements. The other metals used in the arts are similarly treated. Among the less common ones to which a page or two is given are cadmium, iridium, palladium, bismuth, magnesium, and sodium. Tables and a full index are appended. There are one hundred and twenty-two cuts of furnaces and other apparatus.

  1. An Experiment in Education. also the Ideas which Inspired it and were Inspired by it. By Mary R. Alling-Aber. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1897. Price, $1.25.
  2. A Treatise on the Philosophy of Art. By D. R. Moore. St. John, N. B. Pp. 23.
  3. An Introduction to Geology. By William B. Scott. New York:The Macmillan Co. Pp. 573, 8vo. Price, $1.90.
  4. Agriculture In Some of its Relations with Chemistry. By F. H. Storer. In three volumes. Seventh edition, revised and enlarged. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Price, $5, net.
  5. An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada, and the British Posssesions, from Newfoundland to the Parallel of the Southern Boundary of Virginia, and from the Atlantic Ocean Northward to the 102d Meridian. By Nathaniel Lord Britton and the Hon. Addison Brown. Vol. II. Portulacacæ to Menyanthaceæ. Portulaca to Buckbean. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Pp. 643. Price, $3.
  6. The Hebrews in Egypt and their Exodus. By Alexander Wheelock Thayer. Peoria, III.: E. S. Willcox. Pp. 315. Price, $1.25.