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

Scientific Literature.


The purpose of Mr. Israel C. Russell's Volcanoes of North America[1] is to make clear the principal features of volcanoes in general, and to place in the hands of students a concise account of the leading facts thus far discovered concerning the physical features of North America which can be traced directly to the influence of volcanic action. The account is comprehensive as to what it includes, and accurate so far as present knowledge extends. Regarding the western hemisphere as divided into two portions, the author assigns Central America to the northern division, because its relations as to volcanoes are closer with North than with South America. For a similar reason operating inversely, the volcanoes of the Windward Islands are regarded as South American. Much of the work is derived from the results of personal observation; but, of necessity, in so large a subject, much is compiled from the works of others. The scope of the book embraces the numerous still steaming and recently extinct volcanoes of Mexico and the Central American republics, some of which have had their birth since the Spanish conquest, with examples of violent eruptions which the region furnishes; the lofty volcanic mountains of California, Oregon, and Washington, with the lava beds east of them; and still active volcanic energy in Alaska. The first chapter treats of the characteristics of volcanoes, of which the world is drawn upon for types; stages in their lives, characteristics of their products, their profiles and structure, the erosion to which they have been subjected, subterranean intrusions, and the characteristics of igneous rocks. Next is described the general distribution of the active and recently extinct volcanoes of North America. The volcanoes of Central America are enumerated, their geological relations are fixed, and they are described as "young" and "older" volcanoes, in the third chapter. The fourth chapter relates to the volcanoes of Mexico. The volcanoes of the United States are described generally through typical examples of volcanic mountains and lava sheets, and more particularly as "the great volcanic mountains of Oregon and Washington," the "Cascade Mountains," "Columbia Lava," volcanoes of the Coast Range, volcanoes of the Rocky Mountain regions, and volcanoes of Alaska. The concluding chapters are devoted to deposits of volcanic dust, and theoretical considerations, among which the interior heat of the earth, the action of pressure, the agency of water, and the chemical, mechanical, and "steam" hypotheses are noticed. The last chapter gives a very interesting description of the life history of a volcano. The book is well illustrated with charts, maps, and smaller pictures, and is supplied with a satisfactory index.

The books which for a small consideration will tell us what to eat, what to read, and even what to wear, are very plentiful; but with the exception of the pamphlet literature of the "total abstainers," whose sole interest is in water per se without reference to its quality, there is little information obtainable by the general reader regarding what to drink. For this reason, if for no other, such a book as the present one[2] ought to be kindly received. It is a treatise covering very well, in a popular way, the questions relating to the sanitation of potable waters; what water is fit to drink, the ordinary impurities, their effect on its potability, and the various methods by which the injurious contents may be removed. That the subject is an increasingly important one nobody will dispute. The growing tendency toward concentration in cities makes the water-supply question one of great difficulty, the dangers from its careless or ignorant solution being grave and far-reaching. The first chapter in the present volume gives a brief historical account of the ancient water supplies of Carthage and Rome. Drinking water and disease are next discussed. Some of the subtitles under this heading are: Paludal Poisoning, Sawdust Water, Wholesomeness of Hard Waters, Influence of Turbidity on Health, Sewage-polluted Waters, Odors and Tastes found in Waters. Chapters three and four deal with the artificial and natural purification of water. These are the most important portions of the book to the engineer and taxpayer, taking up the question of water supply in its economic and commercial aspects, both as regards the general town supply and also in reference to individual household filtration. The physical forces and forms with which we have to reckon are next considered under Rain, Ice, Snow, and River and Stream Water. In these chapters are considered the importance of a pure ice supply, the influence of forests on rainfall, and the proper care of a watershed. The care and purification of stored water is next discussed, such questions as the preparation of reservoir bottoms, growth of algae in stored water, covered reservoirs, and lake water being taken up. The important and much-disputed questions relating to ground water receive attention in chapter eight. Among the subtitles we find: Contamination by Privy Vaults, Testing Wells for Possible Contamination, Viability of Cholera and Typhoid Germs in Soil. The reliance to be placed upon Purification by Filtration through Soil, Deep-seated Water, including the driving of artesian wells, and related questions are next discussed. Then come two long chapters on the chemical and bacteriological examination of water, the quantity of per capita daily supply, and the very important question of the action of water on metals, especially its corrosion, and solution of iron and lead pipes, form the subject-matter of the two final chapters.

The book seems to be the result of much careful work, is up to date, not technical, and fairly comprehensive. It should be owned by local aldermen and trustees, and in fact every city official whose judgment may be called upon in deciding questions relating to public sanitation and water supply; even the average householder will find much of value and interest in it, and for the modern engineer and physician it seems quite an essential part of his library. Illustrations are numerous and well chosen.

  1. Volcanoes of North America. A Reading Lesson for Students of Geography and Geology. By Israel C. Russell. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 346. Price, $4.
  2. Water Supply: Considered principally from a Sanitary Standpoint. By William P. Mason. Illustrated. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Pp. 480. Price, $5.