Popular Science Monthly/Volume 52/February 1898/Scientific Literature

Scientific Literature.


In its multiplicity of anecdotes this study of sleep[1] resembles the early works of Ribot, and the author chats about each in an equally charming and irresponsible fashion. She is not chary, however, of generalizations, and a very limited number of examples suffices for wide inductions. In the regions of physiology and hygiene she gives a careful account of the phenomena of sleep, supple meriting these with valuable suggestions of her own. It is only when she enters upon the pathology and psychology of her subject that she betrays herself as one of that school, mostly French and Italian, which may be called the romancers of science.

She laments that we understand so little about sleep, which absorbs one third of our lives. The extensive bibliography added to each chapter would seem to disprove a want of scientific attention. The circulation in the brain during sleep has been observed in animals by substituting a watch glass for a portion of the bone of the skull. Experiments have shown also that a withdrawal of blood from the brain precedes sleep, and all conditions tending to this result produce sleep. Heat or excessive cold, which draws the blood to the skin, is followed by drowsiness, and this is likewise the consequence of digestion which summons the blood to the large abdominal vessels. Debility and great loss of blood also cause cerebral anasinia and somnolence.

If it be inquired what is asleep within us, we find that it is only a part of the brain. It is possible for all the organs of the body to be active during sleep excepting partially the nervous system. The voluntary muscles are awake, also the sensory nerves and the cerebral centers controlling each. Only because the different nervous channels are sensitive is it possible to arouse a sleeping person. The author considers that the fact of being able to awake at a given time proves that the attention and will preserve their activity. After investigating the many hypotheses in regard to the causation of sleep, the conclusion is reached that sleep is the resting time of consciousness.

The pathological modifications of sleep embrace weakened and excessive activity. Complete insomnia is found only among the insane or extremely anæmic. Intermittent sleep is injurious, since there is not time in the fugitive rest obtained for adequate nutrition of the tissues, Partial insomnia is met with in persons who are liable to a flow of blood to the brain and those with unbalanced and irritable nervous systems. It is also the result of mental overstrain or extreme physical fatigue. On the other hand, excessive sleep has its attendant evils—the gradual weakening of consciousness and the mental faculties, and the production of serious physical disorders. Among rarer forms of pathological sleep the author discusses narcolepsy, latah, hypnosis, and somnambulism.

The hygiene of the subject brings up interesting questions. How much time should be given to sleep? What should be the light, temperature, and ventilation of the bedroom? Should habit control us? It is contended that too great uniformity proves injurious. Much attention is bestowed upon the hypnagogic condition or state of half-awakening; connection is found between this and some states of mental aberration, and it always denotes a weakened consciousness.

The point of view taken in examining the psychic life of sleep is that "the subjective method is of the first importance." Another divergence from scientific habit of thought is that "in attempting to explain facts by chemical affinity we still have to explain chemical affinity itself." Observations made by the author during five years on thirty-seven persons convince her that dreams increase with the variety and activity of intellectual life. The studies of an Italian investigator show that idiots rarely dream, criminals dream seldom and but little, the greatest criminals least of all. Whence she concludes that it is only under morbid conditions and among the uneducated that it is common to find an absence of dreams. Not only are the dreamless thus condemned to a low intellectual plane, but "old age comes on more swiftly in those who dream little."

Prof. J. Mark Baldwin Social and Ethical Interpretations in Mental Development[2] is a continuation of the studies in genetic psychology begun in the Mental Development of the Child and the Race. It is, however, independent of that work except in so far as the natural connection requires somewhat frequent reference to it. In view of the lack in English of a book on social psychology which can be used in the universities in connection with courses in psychology, ethics, and social science, the author has also endeavored to make his essay available for that purpose. This has led to such expansion of the fundamental ideas of the treatise as seemed necessary to a fairly complete working out of the social element in connection with each of the great psychological functions. The first part is, therefore, as far as its topics are concerned, a more or less complete study of social and ethical philosophy. The special object of the essay is to inquire to what extent the principles of the development of the individual mind apply also to the evolution of society. The study, therefore, falls into two main inquiries: What are the principles which the individual shows in his mental life—principles of organization, growth, and conduct; and what additional principles, if any, does society exhibit in its forms of organization, progress, and activity? Of the three methods by which the author conceives the subject may be investigated, he chooses what he calls the genetic, or that "which inquires into the psychological development of the individual in the earlier ages of his growth for light upon his social nature, and also upon the social organization in which he bears a part." The evidence is drawn largely from actual observation of children, and the main thought is the conception of the child's sense of personality. This is developed in Book I, which presents the person in public and private, as imitative, self-conscious, social, and inventive; his equipment, with instincts, emotions, intelligence, and sentiments; and his personal and social sanctions. The second book relates to society—the person in active and social organization—the social forces, social matter and process, and social progress. From the whole are deduced practical conclusions and rules of conduct. Some of the chapters in the second book were written with reference to a question set by the Royal Academy of Denmark with reference to the possibility of establishing for an individual isolated in society rules of conduct drawn from his personal nature, and the relation of such rules to those which would be reached from a consideration of society as a whole. These chapters were crowned with the gold medal of the academy.

The lectures with which Sir Archibald Geikie inaugurated the Williams lectureship in Johns Hopkins University, have been published in a book which can be read with unmixed pleasure, entitled The Founders of Geology.[3] In choosing his subject the author was moved by the thought that as his audience would include geologists from all parts of the continent and representing all departments of the science, a general topic of equal interest to all would be the best to present, and that a review of the past, with its successes and its errors, would afford valuable lessons in the future prosecution of the science. Yet it would be impossible to present the whole, even of this one phase of geology, adequately in a single course; and he therefore selected a limited period—that between the middle of the last century and the close of the second decade of the present one, an interval of about seventy years—a period which witnessed the laying of the foundations of geology. Even the whole of this period can not practically be fully covered, wherefore the author limits himself to the recital of the story of a few of the great pioneers, from whose "struggles, their failures, and their successes," it may be indicated how geological ideas and theories gradually took shape. The first chapter treats of the cosmogonists and the beginnings of accurate and detailed observation regarding the earth's crust and its history, with special notice of Guettard and his labors; then the rise of volcanic geology and geological travel, the history of the doctrine of geological succession, and the rise of the modern conception of the theory of the earth and of experimental geology are discussed, with notices of the leading names connected with each phase, closing with an estimate of the influence of Lyell and Darwin. From the whole the three lessons are derived of the varied employments of the most eminent leaders of the science and the small number of "professional" geologists among them; the length of time that may elapse before a fecund idea comes to germinate and bear fruit; and "the absolute necessity of avoiding dogmatism" in geology.

The existence of a rule based on astronomical considerations in the orientation of important buildings was suggested to Mr. Norman Lockyer by the observation of the direction in which the Parthenon is built, and of the many changes in the direction of the temple at Eleusis. Then he was reminded of a tradition that the eastern windows of properly constructed churches in England generally face the place of the sunrising on the festival day of the patron saint. He was thus set upon an inquiry which has been pursued for many years as to whether this is not a veritable rule, handed down from remote antiquity, and exemplified generally in temple architecture. The result of these inquiries is his book, The Dawn of Astronomy.[4] The richest field for such a study was of course found in the ancient Egyptian temples; but the illustrations of the author's theory are drawn, besides these, from several other sources. The determination of the stars to which some of the Egyptian temples, sacred to a known divinity, were directed opened the way to a study of the astronomical basis of parts of the mythology—which, however, the author has wisely left to the Egyptologists to follow up. The essay begins with a review of the astronomical knowledge and ideas of the Egyptians as disclosed in their inscriptions and emblems. An attempt is then made to show that they would learn to pay special regard to certain stars and their heliacal rising as connected with their seasons, and, as they advanced in knowledge, to the equinoxes and solstices.

A study is made of six Egyptian temples which were apparently oriented with reference to the solstices, with a detailed study of the great temple of Karnak. Attention is next given to temples which appear to have been placed with reference to certain stars, in which the change of apparent position occasioned since the temples were built by the precession of the equinoxes has to be considered. Many such temples are found directed to several stars. As connected with these coincidences and essential to their rational explanation, the association of these stars with the gods of the temples is discussed, and this brings in questions of mythology, the origin of the constellations, the zodiac, sun worship, the schools of astronomy, etc. These features are compared with data of the Babylonian astronomy, and the origin of the whole is sought. The book is curious and suggestive, and can not fail to be helpful to all students of ancient man and the beginnings of science.

  1. Sleep: Its Physiology, Pathology, Hygiene, and Psychology. By Marie de Manacéine. New York: Imported by Charles Scribner's Sons. Pp. 341. Price, $1.25.
  2. Social and Ethical Interpretations in Mental Development. A Study in Social Psychology. By James Mark Baldwin. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 574. Price, $2.60.
  3. The Founders of Geology. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp.297. Price, $2.
  4. The Dawn of Astronomy. A Study of the Temple Worship and Mythology of the Ancient Egyptians. By J. Norman Lockyer. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 432. Price, $3