Popular Science Monthly/Volume 52/April 1898/General Notices


The important question of memory and its cultivation is the subject of the last volume in the International Scientific Series to reach us.[1] What memory is, its place and importance in the economy of the human mind, its divisions and special functions, and, finally, methods for its cultivation, is the ground covered by Mr. Green's book. The great importance of a good memory is manifest; in fact, our intelligence depends almost entirely on the ability to remember what we learn, or, more accurately, what we perceive, as learning a thing implies the use of memory, so that any suggestions which may help to improve our ability to remember are worthy of close attention. Mr. Green says that in his own case, after a use of the methods he recommends, he found that he could learn a subject in about a fifth of the time that it previously took him. The special rules for memory cultivation occupy only the last fifty-five pages, although the whole subject is treated with special reference to this aspect of the question. The rules are simple, and, in fact, those which common sense would dictate—such as concentration of attention on the subject which it is desired to remember; the exclusion of unimportant and confusing details; frequent recalling of the impression; the use of as many faculties as possible in fixing the original impression; studying when the nervous force is abundant, etc.

When the political uncertainties of the scientific departments at Washington are considered, it seems really remarkable that anything at all is accomplished by them. For the successful prosecution of original research freedom from the petty cares of political maneuvering would seem essential, and yet some of these sections, notably the ethnological and geological, are constantly turning out valuable material. The last of their publications to reach us are a number of Geological Survey bulletins.[2] The first one, No. 87, is by Charles Schuchert, and gives a synopsis of the American Fossil Brachiopoda, including a valuable bibliography and synonymy. The richness of North America in well-preserved Palæozoic brachiopods gives Mr. Schuchert's work a special interest. No. 127, by N. H. Darton, is a catalogue and index of contributions to American geology, and while there can be little said of it in the way of a review, the value of a carefully prepared bibliography of geological literature as a reference book for libraries and geological writers can not be overestimated. No. 138 is entitled Artesian Well Prospects in the Atlantic Coastal Plain Region, and is by the same author as No. 127. It seems that in this region of the Atlantic slope there are no large supplies of potable surface water. Fortunately, however, it has a geologic structure particularly favorable to the accumulation and flowage of underground waters, and from these underground streams several cities at present obtain their water supply. Mr. Darton tells us that during the past six years he has been engaged in a geological study of this coastal plain region, and has given especial attention to the question of subterranean waters; and while this investigation is as yet very imperfect, he thinks that it will in a measure meet the great demand for information as to well prospects and the general relation of the water horizons. In No. 139 Messrs. Weed and Pirsson give us a general study of the geology of the Castle Mountain mining district of Montana. No. 140 is a report of the progress made in the division of hydrography in the calendar year of 1895. The author is F. H. Newell. The Eocene Deposits of the Middle Atlantic Slope in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, A Brief Contribution to the Geology and Paleontology of Northwestern Louisiana, The Moraines of the Missouri Coteau and their Attendant Deposits, and The Potomac Formation in Virginia are the titles of the next four bulletins. No. 146, by F. B. Weeks, is a Bibliography of North American Geology, Paleontology, and Petrology and Mineralogy for 1895. No. 147 is a record, by C. D. Perrine, of the earthquakes occurring in California in 1895, of which there seem to have been about fifty. Messrs. Clarke and Hillebrand, in No. 148, publish some analyses of rocks and analytical methods used in the United States Geological Survey between the years 1880 and 1896.

In The Social Mind and Education[3] by G. E. Vincent, an effort is made to bring conceptions from social philosophy to bear upon the problem of education, with the hope that there may result both clarification of ideas and greater definiteness of purpose. Stress h laid chiefly upon the cognitive function of society and of the individual. Such one-sidedness of treatment is adopted, not from any failure to recognize the organic unity of the mind, but because the vastness of the general subject precludes its treatment in a single volume. The parallel between the development of the race and the individual has of late been subjected to criticism. "It has been pointed out that there are short cuts by which in individual evolution whole stages of the race's growth may be omitted. . . . Education sets before itself the task of relating the individual intrinsically to the social tradition so that he may become an organic part of society. . . . It should be therefore a definite aim of the higher education to direct the student in a purposeful integration of his various pursuits, a putting back of these abstractions into a concrete conception of life."

Dr. Shufeldt has at last brought together in one volume[4] the majority of his popular scientific papers on Natural History. Most of the material has already appeared as magazine articles, and hence does not form a systematic treatise, but is rather a series of Nature stories selected at random, and ranging from the cedar bird to the polar bear. Technical descriptions are avoided, and the text has been prepared chiefly with the view of stimulating the unscientific to an interest in the common forms of animal life which are so abundant and interesting, and which usually receive so little intelligent attention from the average country stroller. The first two chapters deal with methods of study and the classification of animals, and serve as a sort of introduction to the main portion of the book. There is also a final chapter on museums and their uses. This class of books on popular natural history has been enormously increased of late, and while even the poorest of them have some value, a new one in order to justify itself ought to have special claims to originality, and in order to be of scientific value, some system in its treatment of the various groups. This volume is unfortunately devoid of the latter qualification, but does contain a number of reproductions from actual photographs of the living forms; some of them actually very good and others very bad, but all of them remarkably good when one considers the great difficulties in the way of photographing the living animal in its native woods. These pictures and Dr. Shufeldt's facility in presenting scientific facts in a readable and entertaining form no doubt help to justify the book.

The State Geologist of Indiana, W. S. Blatchley, informs us, in his Twenty-first Annual Report of the Department of Geology and Natural Resources, that abandoning, for the most part, "the unscientific method of county surveys, which is impeded by artificial boundaries having no relation to geological conditions," he has adopted that of taking up each of the great natural resources of the State, and preparing a monograph thereon, based upon actual field investigation. The present report contains papers by him and his assistants upon the natural resources of the State, the petroleum industry, composition of coals, the Black Slate or Genesee Shale of New Albany, Indiana Caves and their Fauna (finely illustrated), the Geology of the Middle and Upper Silurian Rocks of Clark, Jefferson, and neighboring counties, the Bedford Oölitic limestone (the famous building stone), natural gas, mines, oils, the geology of Vigo County, and the uncultivated ferns, fern allies, and flowering plants of the same county. The report is illustrated by maps and plates.

A lecture on The Protestant Faith, or Salvation by Belief, read on various occasions before the Young Men's Christian Union by Dwight Hinckley Olmstead, is published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, with an introduction on the Limitations of Thought. It is a criticism of the Protestant principle of freedom in thought, and maintains that belief is involuntary, and therefore compulsory.

In preparing the second edition of his book on The Psychical Correlation of Religious Emotion and Sexual Desire, the author, Dr. James Weir, has incorporated in it a considerable amount of additional evidence in support of his theory, has verified all references, has endeavored to eliminate unnecessary material, and has divided the work into three parts. He has also added to the volume several other essays in which psychical problems are considered. Of the main work, the first part relates to the origin of religious feeling, which is believed to have been first material and prompting to propitiatory offerings. The second part is devoted to Phallic Worship, which, the author argues, dates from a very early period, has been universal, and has survived, even in some parts of Europe, in one form or another, to a very recent period; and the general subject, as defined in the title of the book, is treated in the third part. Dr. Weir's theory was first announced in a medical journal in New York in 1894; the first edition of this book was printed in June, 1897, and the second edition was all written and in the hands of the publishers in August, 1897—all before another book on the same subject appeared, in October, 1897.

The King's Daughter and the King's Son, "a fairy tale of to-day," by Agatha Archer, was written, as we learn from the title-page, by a King's Daughter in the summer of 1896. It declares its part to be "to conspire with the new works of new days." It presents subjects of vital social relations from a new point of view, and aims to enforce the precept that women should be given time and opportunity before marriage to understand clearly what marriage means to them. (Fowler & Wells Company, publishers. Price, $1.)

Physical Problems and their Solutions, by A. Bourgougnon (D. Van Nostrand Company's Science Series), presents a number of problems classified under the headings corresponding to the different divisions of physics to which they are related, and prefaced by such explanations as render their meaning clearer; also problems which have been set at examinations by the University of the State of New York. The solutions of some of the problems are given, and in cases where similar problems have already been treated, references to such solutions have been made.

The author, D. K. Tenney, of a paper entitled The Cooling Universe Refuted: the Earth not Born of the Sun, aiming to awaken inquiry on the subjects treated of, seeks to show that current theories of the origin and history of the earth and solar system are wrong; that the sun does not project light and heat as such to the earth; that the earth is not a result of nebular evolution, but is self-existent and independent, as are other planets and systems, and along with the other bodies is a great electromagnet; and that the forces of that category developed by these bodies are the power behind all phenomena. His argument consists of variations of the familiar one that the present explanations—accepted for want of better ones—are unsatisfactory. His electromagnetic idea—perhaps not intrinsically objectionable as a general principle—still leaves the why and the how unaccounted for.

A book by Dr. Frank Wood Haveland (published by the author, 205 West 118th Street, New York, $2), entitled Science, the Ancient Hebrew Significance of the Book of Genesis, is a little bewildering to one not initiated into the mysteries of Christian science. The book of Genesis is described as the foundation of all other books of the Bible and of every science, philosophy, and religion of all ages, and as explaining various biblical and human mysteries, including the science of healing of the sick, and revealing the highest conditions of thought. In connection with the authorized version of Genesis, a paraphrase is published, embodying its supposed hidden meaning.

The poem of Josiah Augustus Seitz, entitled The Colloquy, is further designated on the title-page as Conversations about the Order of Things and Final Good, held in the Chapel of the Blessed St. John, summarized in Verse. The conversations cover a considerable part of the field of philosophy and knowledge, and relate to subjects, some of which, as in the tenth conversation, "The World of Wrong and Pain," bearing on the social aspects of life; the twelfth, "Of the Natural Order," setting forth evolution; and the thirteenth, "Excursion to Mars," relating to cosmogony, bear on subjects coming within the purview of science. (G. P. Putnam's Sons. Price, $1.75.)

Certain underground structures found in some of the ruined groups of Yucatan have excited the curious attention of explorers, but have not been satisfactorily accounted for. They are generally single chambers, resembling vaults in appearance, built ten or fifteen feet below the surface, and having no connection with the outer world except a single opening through the roof. They are particularly noticeable at Labná, and several have been found at Uxmal. Thirty-three of these chultunes, as they are called, at Labná have been explored by Mr. Edward H. Thompson, whose report upon them, The Chultunes of Labná, is published as a Memoir of the Peabody Museum of Ethnology and Archæology. Mr. Thompson found in them much dust, flint implements, potteries, and human bones. He believes that they were primarily built and used for the storage of water in a region where that necessary is very scarce and hard to get, and that some of them were afterward converted into tombs.

Suggestions for laboratory and field work in High-School Geology, by Ralph S. Tarr, is intended as an aid for the teacher. It is an attempt to introduce the object-lesson method into the study of geology, and, while there can be no question of its desirability and efficacy, there are many difficulties in the way of its adoption in the ordinary high school, the chief among which are lack of time and adequate knowledge by the teacher. The subject is taken up chapter by chapter (following the author's Elementary Geology), field and laboratory work being introduced wherever it seems called for. The latter half of the volume consists of a series of questions for use with the author's Elementary Geology. (Macmillan, 25 cents.)

The elementary course in comparative anatomy of the vertebrates includes, in many colleges, the thorough study of some readily obtained, characteristic vertebrate, followed by studies of the various types. Prof. David S. Kellicott, of the Ohio State University, finds that in the preparation of literary guides for these dissections, the Ophidian, or snake, has been omitted. Considering it as really an important and agreeable type, and easily obtained in the spring, he has undertaken to supply the omission with a little handbook on the Dissection of the Ophidian. The Spreading Viper (Heterodon platyrhinus), a common, harmless snake of fair size, is taken as the type for examination. The systematic place and external characteristics of the Ophidia are first explained, and then follow chapters on bones, muscles, and the digestive and vascular systems and special sense organs, and brief explanations of methods are given in appendixes. (Published by the author, Columbus, Ohio.)

Another of Appletons' Home-Reading Books is Harold's First Discoveries, in the Nature-Study series, by J. W. Troeger, designed for younger children. Harold observes what he sees, or at times goes out to see, and learns or is told about the dispersion of seeds like those of the milkweed, dandelion, thistle, etc., trees, fruits, vapor, frost, the magnet, metals, crystals, animal life, and budding and germiuation as illustrated in the willow, lilac, beans, and peas. The works in these series are furnished with practical hints as to the way the subjects may be dealt with in the teachers' guidance of their pupils, so as to awaken the most lively interest and contribute to real knowledge of them.

An account of Certain Aboriginal Mounds of the Georgia Coast, published by Clarence B. Moore in the Journal of the Academy of Sciences of Philadelphia, gives the result of five months' continuous work in the mounds along the coasts of the inland water passage, in the course of which twenty-one of them were examined. Remarks on the methods of burial observed in these mounds and in those of Florida—"bunched" and "flexed"—the burial of infants and burials in baskets and in jars, precede the accounts; attention is called to some rather marked differences in custom and practice found to have prevailed in the region and in Florida, and even in close neighborhood with one another. A chapter is added on Inhumation and Incineration in Europe, by the Marquis de Nadaillac. The paper is illustrated by figures in the text and fifteen excellent large plates.

Dr. M. L. Holbrook is of the opinion that "the time has come for man to take special interest in his own evolution, to study and apply so far as possible all the factors which will in any way promote race improvement." As a contribution to this study he offers his book on Stirpiculture (M. L. Holbrook & Co., New York, $1). We are not yet able, he admits, to apply perfectly all the factors that will promote race improvement, but we can make a beginning;" greater thoughtfulness may be given to suitable marriages; improved environment may be secured; better hygienic conditions taken advantage of; food may be improved; the knowledge we have gained in improving animals and plants, so far as applicable, may aid us; air, exercise, water, employment, social conditions, wealth and poverty, parental conditions, all have an influence on offspring, and man should be able to make them all tell to the advantage of future generations." These topics are discussed in so far as they bear upon the main question.

Mrs. L. L. W. Wilson's manual for teachers on Nature Study in Elementary Schools (the Macmillan Company, New York, 90 cents) is characterized by the editor, Francis W. Parker, as "an outgrowth of a rich, varied, and thoughtful experience with child nature and the nature that surrounds the child." The manner and atmosphere of the book justify the characterization. The method has been tested in the schoolroom with excellent results. It is planned to meet the needs of the ordinary grade teacher in the public schools of a city. It does not presuppose special knowledge on the part of the teacher, or special facilities for the collection of material, but earnestness in his work and all that pertains to it. The system is substantially an object lesson system, and should be assisted by class excursions for material. The excursions of the author's class were made into the street, in Philadelphia.

To their valuable and attractive series of Home Reading Books, Messrs. D. Appleton and Company have added The Hall of Shells (price, 60 cents), in which the young reader is introduced by the author, Mrs. A. S. Hardy, to the beauty and wonderful structure of mollusks and the habitations they construct for themselves. The characters in a simple story wander along the seashore gathering shells, or find them in their aquarium and converse freely about them—their forms, colors, peculiarities of structure, and the animals that inhabit them—under the guidance of one who has some scientific knowledge of them. In this way enough information is brought in to give a fair degree of general knowledge concerning the animals or families under study, and the reader is referred for further facts to accessible works which give them. Thus the reader is taught concerning the more common shells, the mythologies and literature concerning them, their microscopic structure, pearls, seaweed, the nautilus, the Medusæ, echinoderms, the Gordonidæ, the work of mollusks, the fate of shells, the use of the dragnet, etc.

Another, a little larger book of the Home-Reading Series, is Uncle Sam's Secrets (75 cents), the purpose of which is defined by the author, Oscar Phelps Austin, "to be to furnish the youth of the land some facts about the affairs of the nation, and to awaken in the mind of the reader an interest in kindred subjects." In this book, too, a thin thread of a story and the conversations of the characters in it are made the vehicle for conveying instruction about different kinds of Government money, the postal service, American geology, the mint, the courts, the navy, bimetallism and monometallism, the history of the currency, the tariff question, the history of parties, and the presidential electoral system. Copious references are made to the books in which further information on those subjects may be found.

Among the great variety of information on the special subject given by the Scovill and Adams Company in their American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1898 (price, 75 cents), we single out for mention the contributed articles conveying instruction as to methods and processes or relating experiments and experiences—the chemical tables, the descriptions of the novelties of the year, the standard formulas and useful recipes, tables for the simplification of emulsion calculations, tables of comparative light values, the list of principal chemicals, photographic schools, list of photographic books published in 1897, the record of photographic patents, lists of American and foreign photographic societies, and a list of hotels having dark rooms for development. Numerous plates and pictures represent photographic work of rare excellence, or illustrate the text.

  1. Memory and its Cultivation. By F. W. Edridge-Green. New York: D. Appleton and Company. Pp. 307. Price, $1.50.
  2. Department of the Interior. Recent Bulletins of the United States Geological Survey. Nos 87, 127, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, 144, 145, 146.
  3. The Social Mind and Education. By George Edgar Vincent. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 155. Price, $1.25.
  4. Chapters on the Natural History of the United States. By K. W. Shufeldt. Illustrated. New York: Studer Brothers. Pp. 472.