Popular Science Monthly/Volume 53/June 1898/Scientific Literature

1393784Popular Science Monthly Volume 53 June 1898 — Scientific Literature1898

Scientific Literature.


In the brief biography with which she prefaces the journals of her grandfather,[1] Miss Audubon believes that she has given the only correct account of his life that has been written. She complains of the manner in which the editor of a previous biography has treated the material furnished by Audubon's widow, and particularly of ascriptions in his notes of vanity and selfishness to the great naturalist, of which she finds no trace; but that in the nine journals "and in the one hundred or so of letters—written under many skies, and in many conditions of life, by a man whose education was wholly French, one of the journals dating as far back as 1822, and some of the letters even earlier—there is not one sentence, one expression, that is other than that of a refined and cultivated gentleman. More than that, there is not one utterance of 'anger, hatred, or malice.'" She has tried only to put Audubon the man before her readers, and in his own words so far as possible, "that they may know what he was, not what others thought he was." Since the journals of the Missouri and Labrador journeys came into the author's hands, about twelve years ago, others have been added which had been virtually lost for years. These documents, which furnish her chief sources of information, have been verified and supplemented by every means—by researches in Santo Domingo, New Orleans, and France, and by comparison. The biography of seventy-two pages which precedes the journals includes the sketch of his life to the time of his fiatboat journey from Cincinnati to New Orleans in 1820, which Audubon wrote for his sons, and was printed in Scribner's Magazine in 1893, from a manuscript found in a barn on Staten Island. The first of the journals to be printed is the European, recording the story of his journey in 1826 and his visits to Edinburgh, London, and Paris in the interests of his book—a story full of incident and notices of the men distinguished in literature and science whom he met, and shrewd comment. The modest simplicity of his nature is revealed in this journal in a remark that he found his situation in Edinburgh bordering "almost on the miraculous. With scarce one of those qualities necessary to render a man able to pass through the throng of the learned people here, I am positively looked upon by all the professors and many of the principal persons here as a very extraordinary man. I can not comprehend this in the least." The journal of the Labrador journey follows. This trip was made in 1833 for the purpose of procuring birds and making drawings of them for the continuation of the Birds of America. Its interest is that of science and of adventure in regions not even yet familiar. The narrative of the Missouri River journeys in 1843 is now for the first time published in full, the manuscript of the latter part of it, from September 16th to November 6th, having been lost and supposed to be no longer in existence till it was found in August, 1896, in the back of an old secretary where Audubon had put it 011 his return. This narrative is perhaps the most interesting of all, and is valuable from the point of view of the naturalist) and because it describes in their primitive condition and wildness regions and scenes which are being fast invaded and spoiled by civilization. The book is completed by sixty "episodes" or essays and sketches on subjects that came under Audubon's observation or were suggested to him by his adventures, all but one of which were published in the first three volumes of the Ornithological Biographies, but were omitted from the octavo edition of the Birds of America. One—My Style of Drawing Birds—has been added, and two have been omitted as not being of general interest. Of the forty-five pictures and plates, eleven are portraits of Audubon, and nine are facsimiles of diplomas.

Bird Craft—craft about birds; knowledge of them, of their ways, appearance, and song, when and where to look for them, how to approach them, acquaintance with them—these are what Mrs. Mabel Osgood Wright undertakes to convey in the book of that name;[2] and the undertaking will be found to be crowned with a large degree of success by those who go out into the field intelligently, with sharp sight and the book in hand. A "pocket full of patience" is also prescribed by the author in lieu of the salt of the legend. For naming the birds she gives the scientific terms containing their own definition, which lose force when translated, and the common English names, also recognized by science, which remain practically unchanged. Then there are local names, which are confusing and changing, and need not be treasured up. One does not have to give up the pleasures of acquaintance with birds, even if he lives in the city. Seventy species have been seen in Boston Common, and one hundred and thirty in Central Park. Further, the specimens in the museums are accessible, where they are now usually placed in the attitudes of life. The dweller in the suburbs or in the real country has still greater advantages with living birds. The study of the "living bird, in his love songs, his house-building, his haunts, and his migrations," is particularly insisted upon. "The gun that silences the bird voice, and the looting of nests, should be left to the practiced hand of science; you have no excuse for taking life, whether actual or embryonic, as your very ignorance will cause useless slaughter, and the egg-collecting fever of the average boy savors more of the greed of passion than of ornithological ardor." The study of birds is best begun in the spring, when the untrained eye can become gradually accustomed to its new vocation before it is overtaxed, and the birds can be taken in all their moods from the opening of the season on. So Mrs. Wright takes us, and accompanies us in our wanderings in birdland, like a conversing companion, while she does not neglect to give us the technical information we need. It would be hard to speak too well of the almost vitalized bird portraits which Mr. Louis Agassiz Fuertes has furnished in the eighty full-page plates with which the book is adorned.


Inequality and Progress is the title of rather disappointing volume,[3] at any rate to a the scientist, by George Harris, a professor in the Andover Theological Seminary. The position which the author takes—namely, that inequality is an essential to progress, and that, instead of attempting to equalize things, we should rather strive in an opposite direction—is a thoroughly rational one; but the many facts derivable from psychology, from history, and kindred sciences, and the application of these to a system of society and education, the two sciences on which this question of equality chiefly bears, have been but indifferently handled by Mr. Harris. In fact, to be just, the author announces in his preface that the volume is not intended as a philosophical or scientific exposition, but is rather "a series of observations and reflections which from various points of view exhibit the variety and the unity of men." Notwithstanding these faults there is much good thought in the volume and many well-taken points. The question is one of great importance, bearing as it does directly on the socialistic theories of society, and, as Mr. Harris says, that charmed word "equality" seems to have blinded our people to the absurdity of the doctrine of which it is the watchword. The first few chapters of the volume are devoted to showing the essential inequality of the natural arrangement of things and the impotency of human efforts to bring about an artificial equality. For instance, equality of opportunity in education is shown to be a chimera, not only because of the great variation in individual ability, so that with equal opportunities any two students will graduate with widely differing content of knowledge, but also because what is the most stimulating and appropriate education for one student may have an entirely opposite effect on the next. Inequality or, as the author prefers, variety is next shown to be an essential to progress, and, in fact, one of the results of the latter, and successful social life to depend on the rule of the superior portion of the community, which is again inequality. The chapters ramble on under such titles as Two Kinds of Discontent, Admiration and Inspiration, The Progression of Ideals, until the volume is finally closed by one on Christianity and Inequality. The great importance of a clear understanding of this question, especially in the United States, where we seem to be tending steadily toward socialism, and the slight attention which the inequality side has received during recent years, give Dr. Harris's book a value which perhaps its intrinsic merits do not justify. The reader will gather some new thoughts from its perusal, and may be stimulated to a further study of the question.

Mr. Edmund Gosse's principal aim in composing his Short History of Modern English Literature[4] was to show the movement of the subject. He desired above all else to give the reader, whether familiar with the books mentioned or not, "a feeling of the evolution of English literature in the primary sense of the term, the disentanglement of the skein, the slow and regular unwinding, down succeeding generations, of the threads of literary expression." Considering the nature of the subject and the multitude of temptations to stop on the way to expatiate and moralize, his success in giving the idea of a sense of flow is remarkable. A feeling of movement is what the reader experiences in reading the rapid sketches. There are periods, indeed—the Age of Chaucer, the Close of the Middle Ages, the Age of Elizabeth, the Decline, and so on, down to the Age of Tennyson—just as there are stations on the railroad journey, but between the stops the train goes on with power and unslacking speed. Beginning with the Romances of Chivalry, authors and books are called up in succession, with hardly more than a page to each, delineated or characterized in only a few lines or in an epigram, as it were, yet with such vigor and skill as to leave upon the mind the impression of a picture from life. The leaders of scientific thought of the present age, as of past ages, are included in the sketches: Mill, "skeptical and dry, precise and plain" whose works "inspire respect but do not attract new generations of readers,"; Darwin, "one of the great artificers of human thought," destined to perform one of the most stirring and inspiring acts ever carried out by a single intelligence"; Spencer, in whose Principles of Psychology, as his friends point out, "the theory of Darwin was foreseen" who has made a deeper impression on foreign thought and is more widely known throughout Europe than any other Englishman of the present age, and whose themes "have exercised a stimulating effect over almost every native author of the last twenty years"; Tyndall, who "conciliated critical opinion by the courage with which he insisted on the value of imagination in the pursuit of scientific inquiry"; and Huxley, master of a purer and manlier style, who his whole life through "was attacking the enemies of thought, as he conceived them, and defending the pioneers of evolution."

In Dr. Francis Warner s Study of Children,[5] the practical purpose is very evident, to inform parents and teachers how they should study the idiosyncrasies of children and the relations of their special physical conditions to the psychological symptoms, to the end that they may treat their cases judiciously. If a child is restless, troublesome, even bad, there is most probably a cause in its physical conditions or surroundings for its peculiar disposition. The teacher should seek to ascertain that cause, and so conduct the inquiry that the child shall not be embarrassed or disturbed by knowing his purpose. One of the first principles announced in the book is that we must remember that children differ greatly in strength and in mental faculty; education should therefore be adapted to the special needs of the individuals. As there are many classes and varieties of children, whose needs must be studied, while bodily strength and mental faculty differ with the age and surrounding, "child study must be a matter of primary interest to the teacher and others engaged in the care of children as affording a basis for the methods of education; giving a source of perpetual interest to work in school, an interest in the individual child, and a means of working out, in practice, the best that can be done with the child in various phases of life. . . . Observation shows the child's strong points which should be cultivated as well as his weak ones which must be combated." The chapters on the physiology and general conditions of the child are followed by others on points and methods of observation—what to look for and how—and then by general instructions on methods of treatment and training. The almost innumerable varieties of cases may be arranged in groups, for which the general principles of treatment and study are suggested. These are illustrated by detailed accounts of typical cases. The author, an eminent writer in this line of study, has had special facilities for preparing for this particular work; having, as one of a committee of the British Medical Association, to study school children as to their physical and mental states, examined one hundred thousand children upon a fixed plan, and taken copious notes of what he found.

Miss Merriam seeks in her Birds of Village and Field[6] to aid persons who know little or nothing of birds in identifying and studying those they see. The presence among us of larger numbers of them than we usually suspect makes the study of a considerable variety of birds practically possible to any one. We do not have to go away off to seek them. They throng around our very doors; prefer the vicinity of the habitations of men to wild spots; and, shy as they are, reveal themselves to those who look patiently and carefully for them. From seventy to nearly a hundred species a year have been known to resort to private grounds where records are kept. Miss Merriam furnishes an untechnical key, and as simple as may be to the identification of these birds. A "field color key" describes all the various markings that are likely to be seen, in clear, concise terms; and each particular marking is referred to the page in the book where the bird bearing it is described. The descriptions are lively, interesting, bear upon the habits and appearance of the birds, and give many hints as to how we may enjoy them to the best advantage, and even entice them to make their homes among us; and they include a large number of species with the distinctions between them plainly marked, and numerous illustrations, large and small, of special features.

The selection of counties by the Geological Survey of Iowa[7] for special examination in 1896 was guided by the consideration of bringing to the attention of the public geological deposits of great importance, and of choosing such locations as would elucidate as large a number of geological problems as possible. Six counties are described and mapped as geologically important in respect to indurated rocks and superficial deposits, and as being, therefore, of great practical interest to the people of the State. The soils are treated as economically the most important formations. Tests of building stones have been completed and are ready for publication. Attention corresponding to their importance was given to the study of the coal beds. It was incidentally demonstrated that the succession of Pleistocene deposits is more complete and more clearly indicated in Iowa than in any other corresponding area of this continent so far studied. The State Geologist is gratified to represent that the publications of the survey are being more and more appreciated, and are received by the people of the State as well as by men of science everywhere with increasing favor. Requests for copies of the reports are very numerous and indicate a widespread interest. High schools in counties already reported upon have introduced the separate county reports as works to be read by the pupils studying geology, and newspapers publish summaries of reports of local interest.

The object of Prof. L. H. Bailey's Lessons with Plants[8] is well indicated by its secondary title; it is to suggest methods of Nature study; not to teach a science, but only to indicate a way in which plants may be studied and the subject taught. The lessons are an extension of the ideas embodied in the Nature Study Leaflets issued for the use of teachers by the College of Agriculture of Cornell University; while these leaflets are, in turn, the direct growth of "observation lessons" which were a part of the instruction given in itinerant schools of horticulture in the State of New York. When the book is used by the teacher, he is supposed to master an observation, collect specimens proving or illustrating it, and teach his pupils from the specimens. If the pupil consults it, he collects specimens and recites from them, not from the book. Pupils will not do this so well by themselves as when under the inspiration of the teacher; for while it is not true that only those things are useful which one finds out for himself—else we could make little progress—"the pupil should find out something for himself, and, more than all, he should enjoy the finding of it." The lessons teach and picture what are to be found in twigs and buds, leaves and forage, flowers, fruits, the propagation, behavior, and habits, and the kinds of plants; while the appendix contains suggestions on pedagogical methods, books, classification, evolution, the interpretation of Nature, the growing of plants, and a glossary.

Mr. Edward P. Thompson's narrative of the exploration of the Cave of Loltun, near Labná, Yucatan, in 1890-'91, is given as No. 2, Volume I, of the Memoirs of the Peabody Museum of American Archæology and Ethnology of Harvard University. The cave was excavated through all the deposits that had been made in it "down to and into the crystalline surface of the ancient floor itself." Numerous interesting remains of man and human life were found, inscriptions and specimens of art, but nothing indicative of primitive savagery. Typical examples of these relics are represented in figures in the text and in large photographic plates.

D. T. Day's twelfth Report on the Mineral Resources of the United States (1895) appears in a somewhat different form from the previous reports, the pages being enlarged, and is published in two volumes as Part III of the seventeenth annual report of the Geological Survey. In it the scope has been limited more than in previous reports to the statistics of production of the minerals and statements of the conditions of their occurrence, and less space has been devoted to the technical features of their development.

From the United States Geological Survey we have the monographs from the twenty-fifth to the twenty-eighth volume, inclusive. The twenty-fifth volume comprises the survey of the former bed of the very large Lake Agassiz, which occupied the Red River Valley during the Glacial period, by Warren Upham, who prosecuted the work, under the direction of Prof. T. C. Chamberlin, during four years in Minnesota and North Dakota, and by special arrangement with the authorities concerned, in Manitoba. The Canadian part of the lake has also been examined by Dr. G. M. Dawson.

The twenty-sixth volume is an account of the Amboy Clays, New Jersey, by Dr. J. S. Newberry, completed and revised, after the author became unable to put the finishing touches upon it, by Arthur Hollick, who has also prefixed to the work a brief review of Dr. Newberry's contributions to fossil botany. The Amboy clays are a part of the Cretaceous formation, extending across the State of New Jersey from the Delaware to the southern part of Staten Island, and are the seat of large potteries. Dr. Newberry describes one hundred and fifty-six species of plants found in these clays, mostly from the middle bed in the series, with remains of, perhaps, thirty other species, not clearly identified.

Volume twenty-seven is the Geology of the Denver Basin, Colorado, by S. F. Emmons, Whitman Cross, and G. H. Eldridge. The publication of this report has been considerably delayed, as is explained in the preface, by discoveries made while the survey was going on that made further researches desirabla The importance of these discoveries is indicated when it is said that they bear upon the determination of the age of the Eocky Mountain uplift and the line between Cretaceous and Tertiary formations in general, and upon the recognition of coal-bearing horizons throughout the Rocky Mountain region. The area specially treated in the report is regarded as a type of the "foothill belt" of the Great Plains.

The twenty-eighth volume is the final report of the Marquette Iron-bearing District of Michigan, by C. R. Van Hise and W. S. Bayley, with an atlas, including also a chapter on the Republic Trough, by H. L. Smith.

The Transactions of the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the American Climatological Association, Washington, 1897, includes, besides the address of President E. F. Ingalls, on The Antiseptic Treatment and the Limitation of Climatic Treatment of Pulmonary Tuberculosis, twenty-one papers by physicians on subjects related to health, climate, disease, and cure. One hundred and twenty-one members attended the meeting. The meeting for 1898 is to be held in Bethlehem, N. H.

The International American Conference, or Pan-American Congress, as it is more commonly known, in 1890, recommended the adoption by the Governments represented in it, of a common nomenclature designating in alphabetical order in equivalent terms, in English, Portuguese, and Spanish, the commodities on which import duties are levied, to be used in all transactions in which those duties are in question and in business documents. The nomenclature has been prepared, and is now published by the Bureau of American Republics at the Government Printing Office, Washington, as the Code of International Nomenclature of that bureau. It consists of three quarto volumes, giving the terms in three orders—English, Spanish, and Portuguese; Spanish, English, and Portuguese; and Portuguese, Spanish, and English, a volume being devoted to each order. The vocabularies embrace more than twenty thousand commercial terms used in the Latin-American trade, in each of the three languages; and are adapted to the counting room, the factory, the shipping office, customs offices, courts, to the use of economists and statisticians, and of all persons directly interested in the business relations of the states of the Western hemisphere. The book will no doubt be of great use and extremely valuable to publicists, business men, and students, and may easily justify its existence; but why the publication of it should be imposed upon the Government rather than left to private enterprise is a matter which one imbued with American notions of the functions of government, and particularly of those of the Government of the United States, will find it hard to comprehend.

In the ninth special report of the Commissioner of Labor a social and economic study of The Italians in Chicago is presented. A very minute analysis is given, under twenty headings, of the social and economical conditions, literacy and illiteracy, nativity, conjugal state, families, school attendance and other facts, by sex, nativity, age, etc. It includes data for 6,773 persons in all, 4,493 of whom were born in Italy, grouped into 1,348 families. The average size of these families is 5.02 persons each. As for occupation, 60.68 per cent of all the persons were of the unproductive class; less than one per cent were engaged in agriculture, fisheries, and mining, or professional work; 17.78 per cent in domestic and personal service; 10.14 percent in trade and transportation; 2.78 per cent in some work in addition to their household duties; and 1.65 in some work besides going to school. Special remark is made upon the small proportion of women working at gainful occupations. The average weekly earnings of persons reporting were $5.9312, the highest $7.6412, and the average number of hours per week was fifty-nine. The number of illiterate persons was 2,752. Questions were asked of the housekeepers whether they had baked bread, spun, sewed, knit stockings, or worked in the fields, in this country and in Italy. In each case a considerable number were found who had done one or more of these things in Italy and ceased to do them here. Three hundred and five persons had sent the aggregate amount of $19,384, or an average of $63.56 each, to bring relatives from Italy; 9 had invested $2,440 in land in Italy and 76 had invested $260,665—or an average of $3,430 each, in land in the United States. Three hundred and ten—271 men and 39 women—had visited Italy since coming here—some of them twice, three, four, and even five times.

We have from George H. Barton, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Report B on the Scientific Work of the Boston Party of the Sixth Peary Expedition to Greenland, detailing glacial observations in the Umanak District, Greenland, well illustrated.

In Crusoe's Island, of Appletons' Home Reading Book Series, we have geography, travel, criticism, natural history, adventure, and notes of human traits, all combined in a single small, interesting, and instructive volume. The author, Frederick A. Ober, having visited the Antilles to study birds under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution, became desirous of learning more about those attractive regions. With this desire occurred to him the determination to search out the truth respecting Robinson Crusoe, or rather respecting the spot which Defoe had in view in describing the scene of his great story. In this book he proffers a description of what he believes is "the veritable island in which Robinson Crusoe lived his lonely life, the scene of his wreck, his cave, his bower, his Man Friday; the birds and trees he saw or ought to have seen, together with the author's own experience." Various quotations from Crusoe have been used, which, together with the internal evidence of the book itself, seem to show conclusively that "the island of his exile was not Juan Fernandez in the Pacific Ocean, but Tobago in the Caribbean Sea, not far distant from the north coast of South America"; and Man Friday was a Carib from Trinidad. This, however, is not all the book. The Nature sketches, the tropical pictures, the descriptions of birds, the account of the Caribs, and the adventures, constitute of themselves a story of rare interest.

  1. Audubon and bis Journals. By Maria R. Audubon, with Zoological and other Notes by Elliott Cones. Two volumes.!New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Price, $7.50.
  2. Bird Craft: A Field Book of Two Hundred Song, Game, and Water Birds. By Mabel Osgood Wright. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 317. Price, $2.50.
  3. Inequality and Progress. By George Harris. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. Pp. 104.
  4. A Short History of Modern English Literature. By Edmund Gosse. New York: D. Appleton and Company. Pp. 416. Price, $1.50.
  5. The Study of Children and their School Training. By Francis Warner, M. D. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 254. Price, $1.
  6. Birds of Village and Field. A Bird Book for Beginners. By Florence Merriam. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. Pp. 406. Price, $2.
  7. Iowa Geological Survey, Vol. II. Annual Report, 1896, with accompanying papers. Samuel Calvin, State Geologist; A. G Leonard, assistant. Des Moines, pp. 557, with maps.
  8. Lessons with Plants. Suggestions for Seeing and Interpreting some of the Common Forms of Vegetation. By L. H. Bailey, with Delineations from Nature by W. S. Haldsworth. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 491. Price, $1.10.