Popular Science Monthly/Volume 52/November 1897/Scientific Literature

Scientific Literature.


The climatic treatment of disease has assumed an increasing importance during the last decade, and seems destined to become an even more essential factor than the actual exhibition of drugs. Many of our common ills, especially when they occur in large cities, are primarily due to vicious and unhygienic modes of living, so that oftentimes the simple change to other surroundings will effect a cure. Besides all this, however, and the direct stimulus which lies in the change itself, there is now recognized a distinct curative effect in certain sections and climatic conditions for specific diseases. The book before us[1] is an attempt to study and systematize this subject of medical climatology so that the practitioner may have some scientific groundwork on which to base his advice to the patient. As Dr. Solly says, this sort of advice is constantly asked for, and the ordinary physician, being quite ignorant of anything like systematic knowledge of the subject, often gives directions based on hearsay or medical-journal notes which are, to say the least, not beneficial in results. The book is divided into three general sections. The first of these deals broadly with the principles of medical climatology, and shows the close connection of this science with physics, meteorology, ethnology, and geographical pathology; the second section treats of the therapeutics of climate in relation to disease; and the third section is devoted to a description of special climates as typified in selected resorts, and includes a number of comparative temperature and rainfall tables. This section is by far the largest, occupying about two thirds of the whole book, and about two thirds of this is given to the United States. There is also a brief survey of climatic conditions in Mexico and South America.

The first two sections are obviously chiefly of interest to the practicing physician, although they are so clearly and simply written as to make easy reading for the layman; but the third section, which describes the various climates and the places where they may be found, including a general survey of the comforts obtainable in the way of living accommodations, food, and the recreative possibilities, is of direct interest to the large number of chronic invalids who are looking for a palliation or correction of their symptoms through climatic agencies.

One of the points dwelt on at length is the fact that a by no means just idea of the suitability of a given district can be obtained by a simple study of its rainfall and temperature charts—the question of humidity being of perhaps more importance than either of these factors, not only largely determining its sensible heat and cold but also its insect and plant life.

The importance of this subject, and more especially the importance of a knowledge of it by the physician, can not be too much insisted on; and Dr. Solly's attempt to bring the hitherto isolated data into some sort of usable order is worthy of the greatest encouragement. In so large a task, it is not surprising if we find some imperfections in its carrying out. One of these is a general diffuseness—a devotion of considerable space to the statement of facts which every schoolboy might be expected to know, and the defining of such things as weather, clouds, and fogs. These, however, are minor imperfections, and the work seems, as a whole, to be worthy of extreme commendation, although, owing to its attempt to cover the climates and health resorts of the entire world, its treatment of individual places is rather meager. The book contains a number of instructive rainfall and relief maps.

In the form of a story in which the animals talk to one another, President Jordan has given a sketch of the life history of the fur seal.[2] The incidents of the story afford a description of the infancy of the pups, the life of the "bachelors," and the family cares of the "beach masters," or full-grown males, and the females. The various forms in which death comes to the seals are also told—by starvation to the young if their mothers are killed before they are weaned, by the club of the hunter in the drives of bachelors, by cast of the spear to females sleeping on the water, and by old age if all other vicissitudes are safely passed. The story is told in language simple enough to be understood by the young, and it is meaty enough to be of interest to adults. The illustrations equal the text in volume and are not behind it in interest. There are over forty full-page plates from photographs and nearly as many small pen sketches in the text. President Jordan was appointed in 1896 chief of a commission from the United States to examine the seal fisheries of the Bering Sea in conjunction with similar commissions from Great Britain and from Canada. This book embodies a part of the information gathered during his first summer on and near the Pribilov Islands.

The beginner who has Prof. Comstock's book for a guide can hardly fail to become interested in entomology.[3] It gives the pupil plenty to do, it explains all difficult matters clearly, its style is animated, and it is further embellished by occasional poetical quotations. Observation in the field and on captive specimens in the schoolroom is the keynote of the book. The opening chapters are of general scope. The first describes the parts of an insect, the second tells how to collect and preserve specimens of each of the chief orders, while the third outlines the classification of insects and their near relatives. The second chapter does not contain all the directions for collecting. Further details on this subject and on the preservation and labeling of specimens, the breeding of insects, and on materials and reference books are given in another division of the volume occupying the last sixty pages. In the descriptive part insects are grouped under the heads of pond, brook, orchard, forest, and roadside life. Pupils are directed to collect eggs for hatching, and larvæ and pupæ to watch their transformations; also to observe the habits of free insects, and to make drawings of various parts. Two hundred and ninety-six cuts afford material aid in identifying species.

  1. A Handbook of Medical Climatology. By S. Edwin Solly, M. D. Illustrated. Philadelphia: Lea Brothers and Company. Pp. 470. Price, $4.
  2. Matka and Kotik. By David Starr Jordan. San Francisco: The Whittaker and Ray Co. Pp. 69, 12mo.
  3. Insect Life. By John Henry Comstock. New York D. Appleton and Company. Pp. 349, 12mo. Price, $2.50