Popular Science Monthly/Volume 54/November 1898/Scientific Literature

Scientific Literature.


The period since the Congress of Vienna has been immensely fruitful of great and far-reaching events—of events that have essentially modified the fortunes of the world, its theories of government, and the condition of its peoples; and of that period the nearly fifty years covered by the second volume of Professor Andrews's history[1] have been most eventful and marked by momentous changes. At the opening of this history the continental sovereigns had established despotism throughout their domains on what they thought were firm foundations, and surrounded it with guards which they considered unassailable. The close of it finds the conditions reversed; government in the interests of the people recognized, and yielded to, even if grudgingly, by those backward monarchs who would prefer to contend against it. The first volume of Professor Andrews's history brings the story down to the close of the revolutionary movements of 1848, when the princes, again set upon their thrones, were studying and plotting as to how they might resume their old authority. In France, Louis Napoleon had become a central figure, and the tendencies were taking shape under which the republic was destroyed and imperialism established. Taking up the record again at this point, Mr. Andrews tells us he has treated only those phases of the history that concern the development of Europe in the larger sense, rather than that of each particular state or country. On the ground that no event can be understood in isolation, and that history is something more than a series of events chronologically considered, he has endeavored to give logical form to the treatment of the subject, to carry each movement forward to its conclusion before turning to the others; and has introduced nothing that did not seem to him to be absolutely essential to an understanding of the subject. He has not deemed it necessary to describe battles and military movements at length, and has omitted, with a few exceptions, biographical discussions. He has been successful in adhering to his plan, and, writing always dispassionately, yet without sacrificing interest, and with his mind fixed on the main object, has given a clear and complete view of what each event recorded signified and of what Europe has accomplished in the past half century. The first chapter concerns France, the failure of the second republic, and the rise of Napoleon III to imperial power. This was extremely unwelcome to the other sovereigns, who were disposed to resent the entrance of an intruder into their ranks, and led to diplomatic skirmishing, ending in the Crimean War—a war that "did not create the forces that led to the national unity of Italy and Germany, . . . but gave to Cavour and Bismarck the opportunity that each was seeking." It requires but a few uncolored words at the beginning of the story of the achievement of the unity of Italy—the mightiest event of the whole series—to picture Victor Emanuel the hero that he was. With similar success are presented the masterly statesmanship of D'Azeglio and Cavour and the high-souled patriotism of the people of Italy. This achievement, a victory over opposing Europe, compelled the recognition of an international principle based on the affinities of peoples, and inaugurated, "not only a new régime for Italy, but also a new public law for Europe." The empire of Napoleon, which rose to its culmination while these things were going on, was "nothing but an adventure out of accord with modern highly developed civilization," exhausted France and checked the education of the people in matters of government and habits of self-reliance. The rise of Prussia and the establishment, under Bismarck, of the unity of Germany, are regarded as an instance of the accomplishment of a noble end by the use of force. The struggle culminated in the war of 1870, the ultimate consequence of which was that "scarcely a vestige remained of those conditions of the Congress of Vienna which for so many years had been the anxious care of the European concert." The arrangement between Austria and Hungary, creating a dual monarchy, "established a government which was the result, not merely of political ingenuity, but of experience, and one that on the whole was successful"; and Austria has taken its place among the enlightened governments of Europe. The "Eastern question" is presented as one in which the attitude of the powers is no longer determined in Europe, but in China, India, and Africa, the settlement of which seems to be indefinitely postponed. The concluding chapters relate to present conditions.

Mr. Seward excuses himself in rather an apologetic way for undertaking to write a book on Fossil Plants[2] for the Cambridge Natural Science Manuals—a task which Professor Williamson, a founder of modern paleobotany, had considered too serious; but students of botany and geology have cause to thank him for having consented to attempt the writing of a book intended to render more accessible some of the important facts of the science, and to suggest lines of investigation in it. The botanist and geologist, not being always acquainted with each other's subjects in a sufficient degree to appreciate the significance of palæobotany in its several points of contact with geology and recent botany, the subject does not readily lend itself to adequate treatment in a work intended for students of both classes, and the author has accordingly tried to shape his treatment with this point in view, and so as to adapt it to both non-geological and nonbotanical students. As a possible aid to those undertaking research in this field he has given more references than usually seem appropriate in an introductory treatise—often to specimens of coal-measure plants in the Williamson cabinet of microscopic sections, now in the British Museum—and has dealt with certain questions in greater detail than an elementary treatment of the subject requires. His plan has been to treat certain selected types with some detail, and to refer briefly to such others as should be studied by any one desiring to pursue the subject more thoroughly, rather than to cover a wide range or to attempt to make the list of types complete. The book opens with a sketch of the history of palæobotany, which is followed by a discussion of the relation of palæobotany to botany and geology. A succinct review of geological history is then given, in which the several principal formations are briefly described. The theory of the process of the preservation of plants as fossils is explained, the difficulties and sources of error in the determination of fossil plants are pointed out, and the rules for nomenclature and of priority in it are explained. The systematic part follows these introductory chapters, giving as full descriptions as the condition of the fossils admit, with illustrations—one hundred and eleven in all—of those belonging to the orders Thallophyta, Bryophyta, and Pterodophyta, carrying the subject as far as the Sphenophyllales. Technical as the subject necessarily is, the treatment is clear and, where the matter admits, fluent, so that no student need complain of difficulties in that line.

  1. The Historical Development of Modern Europe from the Congress of Vienna to the Present Time. By Charles M. Andrews. Vol. II, 1850-1897. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. Pp. 467. Price, $2.50.
  2. Fossil Plants. For Students of Botany and Geology. By A. C. Seward. With Illustrations. Cambridge, England: The University Press. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 452. Price, $3.