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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 54/January 1899/Fragments of Science

Fragments of Science.

The Huxley Lecture.—The Charing Cross Medical School in London, which had the good fortune some fifty-three years ago to number Huxley among its pupils, had largely through this fact the honor of being addressed on October 3d by Professor Virchow, the greatest living pathologist and one of the greatest of living scientists. There was a peculiar fitness in his delivering the Huxley lecture, for, while Professor Virchow's work has been chiefly that of the specialist, his co-operation with laborers in other fields, his continued efforts to popularize science, and the prominent position which he has occupied for the last thirty years in public life, have given him a standing in Germany somewhat akin to that of Huxley in England. His career is a striking illustration, as was also Huxley's, of the happy results to humanity from a combination in one man of great ability as an investigator with a facility for generalization and the practical application of scientific truths to the concrete problems of science and civilization. Professor Virchow is described as modest and unassuming, and very much of a contrast in all ways to the ordinary German professor. His address was on The Recent Advances in Science, and their Bearing on Medicine and Surgery. It was inevitable that he should refer to Huxley, of whom he was in some sense a pupil. In speaking of the rapid growth of the latter during his four years on the Beagle, he said: "How this was possible any one will readily understand who knows from his own experience how great is the value of personal observation. . . . Freed from the formalism of the schools, thrown upon his own intellect, compelled to test each single object as regards properties and history, we soon forget the dogmas of the prevailing system, and become first a skeptic and then an investigator." This paragraph is especially worthy of notice, because it points out one of the invariable characteristics of the great man. In whatever field his greatness may lie, he will be found to have broken away from the formalism and conservatism of the schools, and that his great work is based on personal observation and research. This was notably the case with Professor Virchow's establishment of the cellular pathology, as well as of Huxley's researches in comparative anatomy. Our present school system is lamentably weak in this particular, tending to stifle rather than stimulate originality and self-dependence. Professor Virchow's address was, of course, interesting and instructive, but, as he said, much too short for anything like an adequate treatment of the subject. The chief interest of the occasion lay in its associations. An address by Rudolph Virchow, at a meeting presided over by Lord Lister on an occasion commemorating Professor Huxley, left only one thing to be desired—the presence of the latter. For a biologist, or in fact a modern scientist of any description, one can not imagine a more delightful occasion.

 

The Climate of Cuba.—Systematic records of weather appear to be wanting in Cuba. The meteorological observations kept up for several years by Andre Poey are not accessible, no need of their being published having been found. The chief source of information on the subject is the observations which have been kept up at Belen College, Havana, since 1859. From these and a few scattered observations of brief periods at other towns, and by comparison with notes taken at other West Indian stations, W. F. B. Phillips, of the United States Department of Agriculture, has attempted to describe the climate of Cuba. The average annual temperature of the past ten years at Havana was 77° F., and the difference between the highest and the lowest yearly means was only 1.1° F. The warmest month is July, with an average temperature of 82.7° F., and the coldest is January, with an average temperature of 70.3° F. The highest temperature recorded was 100.6° F., in July, 1891, and the lowest 49.6°. Brief intermittent records at Matanzas, more than sixty years old, give a mean annual temperature of about 78°, with 93° as the highest and 51° as the lowest. At Santiago the annual mean appears to be about 80°, and the difference between the warmest and coldest months about 6° F. Records of temperature in the interior, such as they are, give annual means of from 73.6° to 75°, apparently showing lower temperatures than on the coast. The average daily range of temperature is about 10°, the highest occurring between noon and two o'clock p. m., while sudden variations in the temperature of the day are not unknown. The average yearly rainfall at Havana is about fifty-two inches. The season of heavy rainfall begins in the latter part of May and first of June, and lasts till October, and during this period about sixty-three per cent of the year's rain is precipitated. Rain occurs on about one day in three, in heavy downpours of short duration. Notwithstanding the frequency of rain during the summer months, these do not present the greatest number of cloudy days. The days on which rain does not fall are usually perfectly cloudless, and, in general, no clouds are seen in summer except while the showers are falling; while in other months cloudy days sometimes occur without rain. The average velocity of the wind is about 7.5 miles an hour, with variations, according to the season, from 8.5 miles in winter to 6.5 miles in summer. The diurnal variation in wind velocity is much more pronounced than the seasonal variation.

 

The New Planet D Q.—The number of minor planets discovered during the last few years, and their lack of practical importance in astronomy, has tended to distract astronomers' attention from the search for them, as unprofitable, and the announcement of a new one attracts little attention, as a rule. The planet D Q, however, discovered by Herr Witt, of the Urania Observatory, of Berlin, on August 13 th last, has aroused from the first special attention through its remarkable behavior. The orbit is a very unusual one. Mars has always been considered our nearest neighbor, although it was known that some of the minor planets were slightly nearer to the sun when at perihelion than Mars is when at aphelion. But the mean distances of the latter were in all cases much greater than that of Mars; while that found for the new planet is only 1.46 as compared with 1.52 for Mars, and, as the eccentricity amounts to 0.23, the perihelion distance is only 1.13, and the least distance from the earth's orbit only 0.15 as compared with 0.27 for Venus in transit, and 0.38 for Mars in perihelion. The planet will thus be far closer to us than any other member of the solar system, and will afford a most excellent means of determining the sun's parallax. Its diameter is thought to be about seventeen miles.

 

Extra-Organic Factors of Evolution.— Observing that our civilization has made advances or "strides" in recent years out of all proportion to any improvements that have taken place in our organic faculties, Arthur Allin has insisted, in Science, on the importance of extra organic factors in human development. Our sense and motor organs, he says, are essentially instruments and tools, and so is the brain; and most if not all of the three hundred or more mechanical movements known in the arts are found exemplified in the human body. Our sense organs are thus indefinitely multiplied and extended by such extra-organic sense organs as the microscope, telescope, resonator, telephone, telegraph, thermometer, etc. Our motor organs are multiplied by such agencies as steam and electrical machines, etc., in the same manner. "The printing press is an extra-organic memory far more lasting and durable than the plastic but fickle brain. Fire provides man with a second digestive apparatus by means of which hard and stringy roots and other materials for food are rendered digestible and poisonous roots and herbs innocuous. Tools, traps, weapons, etc., are but extensions of bodily contrivances. Clothing, unlike the fur or layer of blubber of the lower animals, becomes a part of the organism at will. One finds himself more or less independent of seasons, climates, and geographical restrictions. By organic heredity or the transmission of the congenital characteristics of the parents to the children, working alone, all progress depends upon the transmission of variations occurring within the organism. "Moreover, these advantageous organic variations die with the individual, and must be born again, so to speak, with each new individual." This requires time, and progress depending on it would be indefinitely protracted. On the other hand, by means of social heredity, each new member of the race has handed to him at birth the accumulated organic advantageous variations of sense and motor organs, and the extra-organic adaptations that have multiplied so indefinitely in the age of civilized man. "The vast importance of accumulation of capital is obvious."

 

Fossils as Criterions of Geological Ages. —Prof. O. C. Marsh said in a paper on The Comparative Value of Different Kinds of Fossils in determining Geological Age, which was read at the meeting of the British Association, that the value of all fossils as evidence of geological age depends mainly upon their degree of specialization. In invertebrates, for example, a lingula from the Cambrian has reached a definite point of development from some earlier ancestor. One from the Silurian or Devonian, or even a later formation, shows, however, little advance. Even recent forms of the same or an allied genus have no distinctive characters sufficiently important to mark geological horizons. With ammonites the case is entirely different. From the earliest appearance of the family the members were constantly changing. The trilobites show a group of invertebrates ever subject to modification, from the earliest known forms in the Cambrian to the last survivors in the Permian. They are thus especially fitted to aid the geologist, as each has distinctive features and an abiding place of its own in geological time. In the fresh-water forms of mollusca—the Unios, for example—there is little evidence of change from the palæozoic forms to those still living, and we can therefore expect little assistance from them in noticing the succeeding periods during their life history. The same law as to specialization holds good among the fossil vertebrates.

 

Pedigree Photographs.—Sir Francis Galton unfolded before the British Association a plan for the systematic collection of photographs of pedigree stock, particularly of cattle breeds, and of more information about them than is now obtainable. He believes that a system of this sort would greatly facilitate the study of heredity. The author had previously shown how the general knowledge that offspring can inherit peculiarities from their ancestry as well as from their parents was superseded by a general law the nature of which was first suggested to him by theoretical considerations, and this ancestral law proves the importance of a much more comprehensive system of records than now exists. The breeder should be able to compare the records of all the near ancestry of the animals he proposes to mate in respect to the qualities in which he is interested. No present source for such information is comparable with what the system proposed would furnish. A habitual study of the form of each pure-bred animal in connection with the portraits of all its nearest ancestry would test current opinions and decide between conflicting ones, and could not fail to suggest new ideas. Likenesses would be traced to prepotent ancestors, and the amount of their several prepotencies would be defined; forms and features that supplement one another or "nick in," and others that clash or combine awkwardly, would be observed and recorded; and conclusions based on incomplete and inaccurate memories of ancestry would give way to others founded on more exact data. The value of the ancestral law would be adequately tested, and it would be possible to amend it when required.

 

English Names for Plants.—In the Proceedings of the Torrey Botanical Club, published in its journal for July, Dr. V. Havard suggested some principles which it would be well to follow in applying English names to plants, predicating that an authorized vernacular binomial should be assigned to each plant, so that ambiguity and confusion may be avoided. In the absence of suitable English names already recognized, it seems best to adopt the Latin genus name, if short and easy, like Cicuta, Parnassia, Hibiscus, or a close translation thereof, when possible, like astragal, chenopody, cardamin, while the specific English name should be an equivalent of the Latin one or a descriptive adjective. In case of all English binomials clearly applying to well-known individual species and no others, all substantives are capitalized without a hyphen, as in Witch Hazel, May Apple, and Dutchman's Pipe. In all genera in which two or more species must be designated, the genus name is compounded into one word without a hyphen, as Peppergrass, Sweetbrier, Goldenrod, Hedgenettle, etc.; except in long names, where the eye requires the hyphen, as Prairie-clover, Forget-me-not. Genus names in the possessive case (St. John's-wort) are written with the hyphen, followed by a lower-case initial. Plants commemorating individual men (Douglas Spruce, Coulter Pine) are written without the mark of the possessive. In specific names participial endings are suppressed, the participle becoming a substantive, which is added as a suffix without the hyphen; thus Heartleaved Willow is changed to Heartleaf Willow. In the discussion that followed this paper, President Addison Brown and Dr. T. F. Allen deprecated the manufacture of book names. The secretary defended the use of vernacular names, saying that they deserved more attention, and adding that in their absence the generic name should be used unchanged. Many Latin names, as Portulacca, win their way without change as soon as they are fairly made familiar. "Coined names seldom live. A name to be successful must be a growth, as language is."

 

Cooking Schools in Philadelphia.—The establishment of schools in Philadelphia for the teaching of cookery is mentioned, in the Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Schools in that city, among the results of the general movement for manual training, as a means of mental development and practical knowledge. The teaching was introduced experimentally into the Girls' Normal School in 1887, and was in the following year made a regular branch of the course. It was later extended to other schools. There are now eight school kitchens under the department of Public Instruction, situated in different parts of the city. The question of the proper place for cookery in the school course has been solved, for Philadelphia, by putting it in the sixth school year, when the pupils are firmly established in the work of the grammar grades, and their attention has not yet been directed to preparation for admission to the High School. The course provides between twenty-five and thirty lessons, and is completed in a single year. It includes instruction in the care of the kitchen, and of the stove or range, general lessons in the classification and nutritive values of foods, the cooking of vegetables, breakfast cereals, bread, eggs, soups, meats, simple cakes and desserts, lessons in invalid cookery, and in table setting and serving. Special attention is given to the preparation of nutritious and savory dishes from inexpensive materials. About two thousand pupils, or less than one half of the number of girls of the sixth year now in the schools, are accommodated in the eight cookery schools. The pupils manifest an intelligent interest in the instruction, and spend the half day per week in the school kitchen without any appreciable loss in the other branches of study. "It comes as a period of relaxation."

 

A Trait Common to us All.—The doctrine of the tendency of mankind to develop the like fancies and ideas at the like stage of intellectual infancy was mentioned by Mr. E. W. Brabrook in his presidential address before the Anthropological Section of the British Association, as a generalization for which we are fast accumulating material in folklore. It is akin to the generalization that individual savage races present in their intellectual development a marked analogy to the condition of the earlier races of mankind. The fancies and ideas of the child resemble closely the fancies and ideas of the savage and the fancies and ideas of primitive man. Mrs. Gomme has found that a great number of children's games consist of dramatic representations of marriage by capture and marriage by purchase, and that the idea of exogamy is distinctly embodied in them. There can be little doubt that they go back to a high antiquity, and there is much probability that they are founded upon customs actually existing, or just passing away, at the time they were first played. Upon the same principle, if we view children's stories in their wealth of details, we shall deem it impossible that they could have been disseminated over the world otherwise than by actual contact of the several peoples with each other. But if we view them in their simplicity of idea, we shall be more apt to think that the mind of man naturally produces the same result under like circumstances, and that it is not necessary to postulate any communication between the peoples to account for their identity. It does not surprise us that the same complicated physical operations should be performed by far-distant peoples without any communication with each other; why should it be surprising that mental operations, not nearly so complex, should be produced in the same order by different peoples without any such communication?

 

The Toes ill Walking.—An instructive discussion of the walking value of the lesser toes by Dr. Heather Bigg is given in a recent copy of the London Lancet. Dr. Bigg believes that the lesser toes of the human foot are of little importance in walking—the great toe constituting the important tread of the foot—and in proof of this he gives an account of a patient, all of whose lesser toes it was found necessary to amputate because of persistent contraction of the tendons. On November 10, 1894, the toes were removed, especial care being taken to keep the resulting scars well up on the dorsal aspect of the foot, so as to be well away from the subsequent tread. In three weeks the patient could stand on her feet, and, after her return home, sent the following record of her progress toward complete recovery: December 30, 1894: "I am able to walk perfectly on my feet with little or no pain, but can not yet wear either slippers or boots, as they are still tender."—January 15, 1895: "I managed to get on my slippers yesterday and wore them with ease for more than six hours."—January 28th: "I put on my boots to-day for the first time. It still pains me slightly to walk; otherwise my feet are going on all right."—February 18th: "I ought to say that the steel plates only half way answer splendidly."—March 24th: "You will be glad to hear that I can walk splendidly now, just like a proper human being; it is just eighteen weeks next Tuesday since the operation."—May 5th: "I have decided to come to town next Monday week to let you see how well I can walk."—June 17th: "I played two sets of tennis on Saturday, and my feet were none the worse afterward."—July 24th: "You will be surprised to hear that the big toes have lengthened half an inch since the operation, and I have had all my boots lengthened and the toe line made straighter."—August 30th: "I know that you will be interested to hear that I have just accepted an invitation to a dance on September 13th. Whether I shall dance comfortably or not is another thing."—September 14th: "I went to the dance on Tuesday evening and thoroughly enjoyed myself after not dancing for so long. My feet were on their best behavior, and did not pain me once during the evening. I never realized before that I had no toes until I began to dance; then it seemed so odd only to have one toe, but I suffered no inconvenience whatever from the loss of them."—December 5th: "I get on so well with my bicycle." Only two disadvantages showed themselves as the result of the operation and these were temporary. One was that the great toes tended to pervert themselves toward the middle line of the feet, a thing which was readily remedied by the use of single-toed stockings, and by packing the space in the boot left vacant by the missing toes with cotton wool; the other was a loss of local sense on the outer sides of the feet, which went to show that the lesser toes were missed rather as tactile organs than anything else. This failure of feeling righted itself in time, presumably by a vicarious and intenser sense being acquired by the skin of the outer side of the foot. In all other respects the loss of the toes discovered no inconvenience.

 

Animals' Bites.—That there is something more serious than the mere wound in the bite even of a healthy animal is attested by Mr. Pagin Thornton, from a chapter in his own experience, and in the testimony of a number of his own friends who have suffered for weeks together from having been bitten. "And what is more surprising to me," he says, "is that some of us may have hands crippled for some time from bites of a man's teeth." Dog bites are always dangerous, but largely from the size of the wound which a dog biting in earnest will inflict. With men they usually fail to do their best. Animals recover from wounds more easily than men do; but Lord Ebrington says that deer bitten by the dogs in Exmoor hardly ever recover. Much of the poisoning caused by bites is supposed to be due to the state of the animal's teeth; and in this way the bite of a herbivorous animal, whose teeth are usually soiled, may cause worse after effects than that of a carnivore, whose wet mouth and wet tongue keep its teeth fairly clean. A similar difference is observable in the effects of being clawed and bitten by carnivora. Wounds made by the claws of leopards are poisonous, while those caused by the teeth are rarely septic. The force with which a bite in earnest is inflicted is an important element in its dangerous character. "It seems," says the London Spectator, "as if for the moment the animal threw all its force into the combination of muscular action which we call a 'bite.' In most cases the mere shock of impact, as the beast hurls itself on its enemy, is entirely demoralizing, or inflicts physical injury. A muzzled mastiff will hurl a man to the ground in the effort to fasten its teeth in his throat or shoulder. Then, the driving and crushing force of the jaw muscles is astonishing." Sir Samuel Baker noticed that the tiger usually seized an Indian native by the shoulder, and with one jaw on one side and the other on the other bit clean through chest and back. In nearly all cases the bite penetrates to the lungs. This kind of wound is characteristic of the bites of the felidæ. Hardly any bird recovers from a cat's bite, for the same reason. The canine teeth are almost instantly driven through the lung under the wing.

 

Doulton Potteries.—Sir Henry Doulton, head of the Lambeth potteries, whose death, November 17, 1897, has been recorded in the Monthly, preferred devoting himself to the factory to engaging in the study of a learned profession for which his parents intended him, and himself did much of the largest work produced there in the earlier days of his connection with it. As the factory was enlarged, it made drain pipes, vessels and appliances of stoneware for chemical and other similar uses, for which it gained prizes at the great exhibitions of 1851 and 1862; ale pots and mugs of traditional and original designs; terra-cotta vases; and first exhibited articles of higher artistic merit at Paris in 1867. It showed a magnificent collection at Vienna in 1873, and its exhibit at Philadelphia in 1876 was one of the marked features of our Centennial. The chief styles of its work are the ornamental salt-glazed stoneware known as Doulton ware, and the underglaze-painted earthenware called "Lambeth faïence." Sir George Birdwood ascribes as the great merit of Sir Henry's life work his adherence to the two principles of making, as far as possible, every piece intended for decoration on the wheel, and of giving the utmost scope to the designer into whose hands the piece fell for ornamentation. Four hundred designers, mostly women, and some of them real artists, are engaged at the potteries, and each has her way and signs her name to her work; so that "Sir Henry Doulton succeeded in creating a most prolific school, or rather several schools, of English pottery, the influence of which has been felt in the revival of the ceramic arts in all the countries of the Old World"—where they had been demoralized by the use of machinery; and through the influence of his example, working since 1871, the United Kingdom now produces "the most artistic commercial pottery of any country in the world."