Popular Science Monthly/Volume 54/January 1899/Minor Paragraphs


A little over a year ago Professor Fraser published the results of some researches which showed that the bile of several animals possessed antidotal properties against serpents' venom, and against the toxines of such diseases as diphtheria and tetanus, and that the bile of venomous serpents is an antidote to their venom. The results from an extension of these first experiments have been recently published in the British Medical Journal. The most important conclusions are as follows: The bile of venomous serpents is the most powerful antidote to venom, and is closely followed in efficiency by the bile of innocuous serpents. Regarding the antidotal power of bile on the toxines of disease, Professor Fraser found that the bile of venomous serpents had more antidotal power than that of the majority of the other animals examined. It is curious that among the non-venomous animals the rabbit's bile is the most powerful in antidotal properties.

Three ways are mentioned by Prof. W. A. Herdman in which disease may be communicated through oysters to the consumer; viz., by the presence in the animal of inorganic, usually metallic, poison; or of organic poison; or of a pathological organism or definite disease germ. From experiments in the inoculation and disinfection of oysters, it was found that all traces of these organisms could be removed by proper washing. Good currents passing the beds are an important factor in keeping the oyster healthy, and make it possible for the animal to absorb large quantities of sewage and dispose of it. The effect of this is to purify the water; but in the sifting process, while the sewage is passing through, the animal retains disease germs, and may pass them on to the consumer. Oysters should therefore be given an opportunity to purify themselves, as is done in France, where they are kept for a time in clean tanks before being sent to market. Oysters may be effectively washed in fresh water. Sea water is unfavorable to disease germs. Greenness in oysters is caused by food administered to improve their quality; by the presence of copper; and in some American oysters by an inflamed condition of the mantle. Green spots are also produced by wandering cells getting under the epithelium. These cells are loaded with granules which give a copper reaction.

The most interesting result of the massacre and sack of Benin, the Saturday Review says, was the capture of a large series of brass plaques, statuettes, box lids, pipes, etc., which have been brought to England. The various articles are all castings, and their elaborate ornamentation bespeaks for their makers great skill in metal working. Most African tribes have smiths who hammer pieces of brass rod and wire into simple ornaments; but these Benin brasses represent a stage of metal working far more advanced than anything recorded for the native races of Africa. Nothing like them is being made by any negro race at present, and nothing is known that can be regarded as a precursor of them. A statuette in the Liverpool Museum of a negro holding a flint gun fixes their date as not earlier than about 1630. In trying to account for them, many think they were due to the influence of some comparatively advanced tribe that reached Benin from the central Soudan and brought with them a knowledge of brass work derived from early, possibly Egyptian, sources; and others attribute the work to some prisoner or trader who lived at Benin in the seventeenth century.