Popular Science Monthly/Volume 52/February 1898/Minor Paragraphs


Institute of France, Cuvier Prize.—At the session of the Académie des Sciences held at Paris, December 13, 1897, the Cuvier Prize of 1,500 francs was awarded to Professor O. C. Marsh, of Yale University. This prize is "awarded every three years for the most remarkable work either on the Animal Kingdom or on Geology."

The Cuvier Prize is generally regarded as the highest honor in natural science, and hitherto has been given to only two persons in this country, Agassiz and Leidy. The former, however, was a native of Switzerland, and there the special work was done for which his prize was awarded.

The vine was once much more largely cultivated in England than it is now, and English wines were not unknown. The recent success of Lord Bute's vineyards at Castle Cook, near Cardiff, Wales, seems to favor the prospect that the grape and its products may yet, if the people take to it, win a position of importance among British industries. The vines were planted in 1875. The yield of wine has, with various fluctuations, risen from forty gallons in 1877 to forty hogsheads in 1893 and 1896; and the cost of all previous experiments was covered by the crop of 1893* That this success is not merely an accident of locality is proved by the return of a second vineyard, which was planted in another part of Lord Bute's estate, the vines of which are thoroughly established, grow vigorously, and ripen well in most years. "We are planting thousands of vines every year, and propose to plant an acre every spring. Six hogsheads of wine were given in 1895 by the one acre in bearing condition in the new vineyard, in a season when many of the grapes and fruit and vine crops were spoiled by mildew."

Concerning the useful aspect of earthquake observations, Prof. John Milne said, in the British Association, that in Japan it is now clearly recognized that ordinary engineering practice as applied to embankments, piers for bridges, tall chimneys, the framing of ordinary dwellings, and other structures is to be avoided; and whenever, as, for example, after a disastrous earthquake or a fire, reconstruction is required, new methods are adopted, and the loss of life and property is being steadily reduced. The application of seismometry to measuring the irregular movements of locomotives has resulted in new forms of balancing the engines, with, among other incidents, a marked saving of fuel. By the use of seismographs along the coast of Japan submerged areas of seismic activity have been mapped through which it would be dangerous to lay a cable. Instruments which record the unfelt movements of the earth's crust sometimes tell us that cable interruption is due to earthquake action so far from land that it can not be felt by those on shore. These instruments, wherever they are established, give information of great seismic disturbances, even when they take place at the antipodes of the place of observation. Hence they enable us to correct, confirm, and even to disprove telegraphic information.

The peach is cultivated in Belgium grafted or budded on the red plum, which imparts much of its superior vitality to the scion. The proper calcareous quality is imparted to the soil by manuring thoroughly and applying about a bushel of lime to each tree. The trees are trained upon the sunny sides of the houses, and few houses are without trees covering their walls. To shelter the buds at the time of flowering branches cut from other green trees are placed among the upper boughs, or they are covered with mosquito netting or other material with meshes large enough to give passage to light and air; or simply devised shelters of straw are laid over them. The shields are usually placed in position about the 1st of March, and are not removed, except in cloudy weather, till all danger from frost has passed.

Among the curiosities of architecture described by Mr. F. T. Hodgson in Architecture and Building we find the following: "The Exchange building in the city of Copenhagen has attached to it a tower and spire that is one of the sights of Denmark's capital. It is one of the most remarkable examples of eccentric architecture known, although the architect in his desire for originality has not sacrificed grace of form. The lower part is octagonal in shape; but the upper part consists of four carved dragons whose tails, gracefully entwined, gradually taper away and form the spire of the Exchange. The tower and spire run up over one hundred and sixty-five feet, and the tails of the dragons are 'scaled' or imbricated, and the effect is rather pleasing. The Exchange was built in 1815."

Prof. E. Ray Lankester has taken the pains to contradict an assertion that he was opposed to amateurs in science. "There is not a particle of truth in it," he writes; "the members of the Marine Biological Association are mostly 'amateurs'; Darwin was an amateur; it is rare indeed to find a professional naturalist of any merit who is not in the true sense of the term an amateur. I desire no better term to describe my relation to biological science than that of 'amateur.' My students in London and in Oxford who have been good for anything in the making of new knowledge have been 'amateurs,' and the whole body of men who have co-operated with me for thirty years in the production of the Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science have been, with very rare exceptions, 'amateurs.' It is, consequently, obvious that I have never despised the efforts of amateurs on the ground that they were made by amateurs; but, on the contrary, have been occupied entirely with organizing those efforts, and in making and recording observations myself as an amateur. On the other hand, I have but little toleration for incompetence, pretense, or fraud, whether in an amateur or a professional man."