Popular Science Monthly/Volume 55/July 1899/General Notices


Miss Mary H. Kingsley has given in her West African Studies[1] a book marked by pungent wit and striking originality in its sketches of adventure and observation, and containing in the chapters devoted to ethnology results of her personal studies. She was already known by a record of her adventures of a young Englishwoman traveling alone through some of the worst regions of West Africa, embodied in her book Travels in West Africa, which was published in the latter part of 1898. The present book may be regarded, as its name implies, as the result and the embodiment of the afterthoughts of that hazardous journey. It includes, after descriptions in which the unconventional directness of expression is much to be remarked, an account of African characteristics and a description of fishing in West Africa, chapters of a soberer sort on fetich, schools of fetich, witchcraft, African medicine and the witch doctor, and historical and economical chapters on Early Trade, French Discovery, Commerce, the Crown Colony System and some of its incidents. The Clash of Cultures, and African Property. Miss Kingsley's criticisms of the present system of administration being regarded as rather destructive, she endeavors to set forth, in a chapter entitled An Alternative Plan, "some other way wherein the African colonies could be managed." Special attention is invited by the author to two articles in the appendix to the volume by M. le Comte C. N. de Cardi and Mr. John Harford. We are pleased to note the high appreciation which Miss Kingsley expresses of the anthropological work concerning west-coast tribes of our former contributor. Colonel A. B. Ellis—Sir A. B. Ellis when he died.

Mr. Frederick Palmer's In the Klondyke[2] is an unpretentious book and free from the appearance of sensationalism, but gives a clear and graphic account of the region and its ways and of the getting there at the breaking up of winter. The author was at Dyea late in February, having intended to go with a Government relief expedition which had found no occasion to proceed farther. Being thus left out, he undertook, with dogs and sledges and two companions who proved congenial, the "untried journey" of six hundred miles over the ice fields of the Lewes Lakes and the ice packs of the Yukon River, which had been the contemplated route of the expedition. The start was made about the 18th of March, with little time to spare, because the Yukon was expected to become impassable by the 20th of April. The Chilkoot Pass was achieved in a day, and the rest of the journey was made "downhill with the current of the river at the rate of eight inches to the mile," in weather that became very variable, with now hard freezing and now slush in the middle of the day. The difficulties of the journey must have been formidable, with considerable suffering, besides a week in a hut with the measles, but no complaint further than the mention of the incidents appears in the author's story. On some of the days the thermometer ranged from 10° to 20° below zero at two o'clock in the morning, to 80° above at night, and the author "had one ear blistered by the frost and the other by the sun in the same day." The party arrived at Dawson just four days before the final break-up of the ice in the river. Accounts corresponding in temper and vividness with that of the journey are given of Dawson, the miners and mining, the history of the Klondyke mining enterprise, Klondyke types of character and adventure, the toils and trials and profit and losses of the "Pilgrims," the workings of the Government, and the return home to civilization—which does not appear, after all, to have offered transcendentally superior attractions to those who had experienced the pleasure of adventure.

The History of Physics in its Elementary Branches[3] has been prepared by Professor Cajori in the belief that some attention to the history of a science helps to make it attractive, and that the general view of the development of the human intellect gained in reading a history on the subject is in itself stimulating and liberalizing. The author has had in mind Professor Ostwald's characterization of the absence of the historical sense and the want of knowledge of the great researches upon which the edifice of science rests as a defect in the present method of teaching. The subject is treated by periods. In ancient times the Greeks, while displaying wonderful creative genius in metaphysics, literature, and art, being ignorant of the method of experimentation, achieved relatively little in natural science. The Roman scientific writers were contented to collect the researches of Greek professors. Except in a few instances the Arabs did not distinguish themselves in original research. Writers in the middle ages were only commentators, and knew nothing of personal investigation. The physicist of the renascence abandoned scholastic speculation and began to study Nature in the language of experiment. The seventeenth century was a period of great experimental as well as theoretical activity. In the eighteenth century speculation was less effectively restrained and guided by experiments. The nineteenth century "has overthrown the leading theories of the previous one hundred years, and has largely built anew on the older foundations laid during the seventeenth century." The evolution of physical laboratories, first for teachers and then for students, is the subject of the last chapter.

"The Great Commanders Series" of D. Appleton and Company is enriched by a biography of General Sherman[4] whom the author, General Manning F. Force, styles "the most picturesque figure in our civil war." He was more than this; he was its scholar and statesman—a man distinguished by the possession of high military combined with the best civil qualities. Further, as General Force well says, "his character was absolutely pure and spotless." In his dealings with the Vigilance Committee in San Francisco he assumed a position which it required courage of a much higher order than a soldier's to maintain. While comfortably situated as an honored professor in the State Military Academy of Louisiana when the Legislature passed the Ordinance of Secession, he had no hesitation in deciding what to do. He at once gave in his resignation in a letter that is a model of manliness, declaring his preference "to maintain allegiance to the Constitution of the United States as long as a fragment of it survives." His career as a general in the civil war is described at length. Through it all his foresight, seeking always to accomplish the most with the least expenditure and ultimate suffering, to which his strategy was adapted, is conspicuous. At this time and afterward his supreme thought appears to have been as to what would best conduce to the permanent good of the republic. To his military ability and self-effacing patriotism he added a far-seeing wisdom in council that could always be relied upon. "In his most unguarded words his principle was always clear, noble, and intensely patriotic, and his careless colloquial expressions often covered a practical wisdom and insight of a most striking kind."

In preparing their Text-Book of Algebra[5] the authors, assuming that mental discipline is of the first importance to every student of mathematics, have endeavored to present the elements of the science in a clear and logical form, while yet keeping the needs of beginners constantly in mind. Special attention is given to making clear the reason for every step taken; each principle is first illustrated by particular examples, and then rules and suggestions for performing the operation are laid down. The authors have endeavored to avoid apparent conciseness at the expense of clearness and accuracy, and have thereby made their volume somewhat larger than ordinary text-books. Features to which attention is called are the development of the fundamental operations with algebraic numbers and the concrete illustrations of these operations; the use of type forms in multiplication and division and in factoring; the application of factoring to the solution of equations; the solutions of equations based upon equivalent equations and equivalent systems of equations; the treatment of irrational equations; the discussions of general problems and the interpretation of positive, negative, zero, intermediate, and infinite solutions of problems; the treatment of inequalities and their applications; the outline of a discussion of irrational numbers; a brief introduction to imaginary and complex numbers; and the great number of graded examples and problems.

The material of the Primary Arithmetic, Number Studies for the Second, Third, and Fourth Grades, of A. R. Hornbrook (American Book Company), has been chosen with careful reference to the development of the number sense of little children, as noticed by the author and as reported by many other observers. A distinctive feature of the work is the use of diagrams called "number tables," as a concrete basis for the child's thinking while he is getting his first ideas of the facts of the addition and multiplication tables. In them the numbers up to one hundred are presented in columns of tens, and so handled as to exhibit to the child's conception the relations of the several digits. By their use he first learns the properties of ten, then of two, and so on of the others—not presented in regular order, but with a view of exhibiting special properties—and their relations to one another. The method is ingenious and appears useful.

The study on Rhode Island and the Formation of the Union, of the Columbia University Series in History, Economics, and Public Law (The Macmillan Company, New York), was undertaken by Mr. Frank Greene Bates in order to ascertain why Rhode Island so long delayed its ratification of the Federal Constitution. The delay seems to have been largely a matter of the assertion of State rights, in which Rhode Island appears at that time to have been but little, if any, behind South Carolina. Liberty "was the presiding genius of the spiritual life of the colony, and the principle of freedom of conscience was never lost sight of; and this could not otherwise than heighten the other characteristics of the colony—individualism." The course pursued was the natural outcome of the conditions of the times, the "outcropping of the undying love of the people of the State for democracy and liberty, and their jealousy of all authority outside their own boundaries."

"No book up to recent date," says the author of Pantheism, the Light and Hope of Modern Reason, who signs his name C. Amryc, and gives no publisher's name, "has treated pantheism as consistently as it deserves to be treated"; and he adds that "it is no creed; it is a logic; it makes absolutely no demand upon 'belief'; what is not logical is rejected, what is logical to-day is accepted, no matter whether it was unlogical a thousand years ago or will be illogical a thousand years hence; we are only responsible for our times." As pantheism, if it is a true logic, must be applicable to all races, the author has not chosen his examples from one nation or tribe; and he believes that the views he expresses are also those of nine tenths of what is called modern science. Many topics are treated of, some of which would not at first thought be associated with an exposition of pantheism. The matter and manner of the book are various. Parts of it are fairly good reading; other parts strike us as different.

A book on The Principles of Agriculture, prepared by Prof. L. H. Bailey as a text-book for schools and rural societies, is published as a number of the Rural Science Series of the Macmillan Company ($1.25). In it agriculture is treated as a business, not a science, but as a business which is aided at every point by a knowledge of science. "It is on the science side that the experimenter is able to help the farmer. On the business side the farmer must rely upon himself, for the person who is not a good business man can not be a good farmer, however much he may know of science." The principle of the intelligent application of knowledge is illustrated in a remark of the author's about the treating of drainage. The learner is apt to begin at the wrong end of his problem. In the usual method the pupil or reader is first instructed in methods of laying drains. "But drainage is not the unit. The real unit is texture and moisture of soils—plowing, draining, green cropping, are methods of producing a given or desired result. The real subject-matter for first consideration, therefore, is amelioration of soil, rather than laying of drains." Professor Bailey aims throughout this book to get at "the real subject-matter for first consideration" in matters relating to soils, the plant and crops, and the animals and stock.

Ideals and Programmes (C. W. Bardeen, Syracuse, N. Y., 75 cents) is a collection of thoughtful and suggestive essays, by Jean L. Gourdy, on the practical side of school life and the teaching of children. The author's ideal seems to be that the teacher should have a plan for her work, preparing for it so as to have the whole course marked out on general lines for the entire school year. Thus, her occupation should be to qualify herself for doing the work right. These statements of general principles are followed by essays on reading and plans for teaching, correlation as "the headstone of the corner of successful teaching, geography, sand modeling, field lessons, kindergarten training, and discipline." The burden of the whole is by skillful adaptation to get the best possible out of every lesson, in which a liberal use of field work assists greatly, and above all to avoid the stiff, formal, juiceless lessons of the old style of teaching.

There have been several biographies of Faraday, most of them now out of print; but the life, work, methods, character, and aims of the man—who was "beyond all question the greatest scientific expositor of his time"—can not be kept too constantly or too long before the minds of students. Welcome, therefore, is the easily accessible and convenient volume Michael Faraday: His Life and Work, which has been prepared by Prof. Sylvanus P. Thompson, and is published by the Macmillan Company in their Century Science Series ($1.25). The work by which Faraday contributed so much to the advancement of knowledge is made prominent, and is illustrated largely, due regard being had to the limitations of the size of the book, with citations from his own journal and copies of his drawings.

In American Indians, a book second in order but first in date of publication of a series of "Ethno-Geographic Readers" (D. C. Heath & Co., Boston), Prof. Frederick Starr has succeeded in conveying a large amount of information about our aborigines in a very small space, and has done it in a clear style and a very satisfactory manner. The book is intended as a reading book for boys and girls in school, to whose tastes and capacity it seems well adapted; but the author will be pleased if it also interests older readers, and hopes it may enlarge their sympathy with our native Americans. Besides the accounts of the tribal divisions, general customs, manner of life, houses, and institutions—which when they are counted up are found to be quite numerous—it has articles on the sign language, medicine men and secret societies, the mounds and their builders, George Catlin and his work, the cliff-dwellings and ruins of the Southwest, the tribes of the Northwest coast, matters of religious and mythological significance, the Aztecs, the Mayas, and the ruined cities of Yucatan and Central America.

The revision, for the fifth edition, of H. Newell Martin's The Human Body (Henry Holt & Co., New York, $1.20) was undertaken by Prof. George Wills Fitz with the idea of bringing the book into accord with the late developments of physiology, of simplifying the treatment of some parts while expanding that of others, and of giving additional illustrations. Every effort has been made to avoid injuring those features of the author's work which have contributed to making the book so favorably known. The changes in the first nine chapters are largely verbal; but considerable alterations and additions have been made in some of the succeeding chapters. The directions for demonstrations and experiments have been greatly enlarged and collected into an appendix. They include the new requirements in anatomy, physiology, and hygiene for admission to Harvard College and the Lawrence Scientific School.

We have already noticed some of Lucy S. W. Wilson's excellent Manuals on Nature Study, particularly the one intended for the guidance of teachers. We now have in the same line the First Reader of a series on Nature Study in Elementary Schools (New York: The Macmillan Company, 35. cents), a book composed of original matter and selections which has been prepared "with the desire of putting into the hands of little children literature which shall have for their minds the same interest and value that really good books have for grown-up people." But the author does not expect to accomplish this by merely giving the book to the child and leaving the reading to work out its own effect. Each of the lessons is intended to be preceded by a Nature lesson. During or after the reading a lesson should be given in the new words introduced, and afterward the lessons should be grasped for the sake of thought. The lessons, which have appropriate illustrations from Nature, present some novel features. Among them is an apparent intention in the original compositions to follow the child's method of thought.

The American Elementary Arithmetic (American Book Company) is intended by the author, Prof. M. A. Bailey, to cover the first five years' work (beginning apparently very young) in the study, and is the first of a two-book series. It is divided into two parts—for the primary and for the three succeeding grades. It contemplates the use of apparatus, consisting of paper, paste-board, toy money, blocks, and splints. The attempt is made to give every subject twice: first in pictures, and second in the particular form of printed words. Mathematical conceptions are presented in the first chapter in the order in which they are supposed to arise in the child's consciousness—first, once or more, indefinitely; next, how many, by holding up fingers, laying down sticks, etc.; and then by words, and so on—all introductory work designed to develop step by step a mathematical vocabulary, and to form a habit of clear mathematical thinking. The laboratory plan is followed in the succeeding chapters.

In the Language Lessons of J. G. Park (American Book Company) an arrangement of the matter is aimed at which will draw upon the student for such effort as may be expected at a given stage of advancement, which will cause him to think first and then to express his thought with clearness and precision. In the succeeding parts are given exercises on language work, with special drills upon capitalization and punctuation, inductive lessons in grammar, and, finally, lessons so graded that a student may advance very readily from them into the higher work of grammar. The study is facilitated by the use of striking illustrations as the basis of lessons.

The Semi-annual Report of Schimmel and Company (Leipsic and New York), though primarily a business document, furnishes much information about the industries in essential oils and fine chemicals, and concerning progress in the departments of chemical science relating to these. The report for October, 1898, speaks of much research and many valuable studies as having been carried on during the preceding six months in the domain of the essential oils and their constitution, and of ample material for scientific reports as having been gathered.

  1. West African Studies. By Mary H. Kingsley. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 633, with Map. Price, $5.
  2. In the Klondyke, including an Account of a Winter's Journey to Dawson. By Frederick Palmer. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Pp. 218, with plates. Price, $1.50.
  3. A History of Physics in its Elementary Branches, including the Evolution of Physical Laboratories. By Florian Cajori. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 322. Price, $1.60.
  4. General Sherman. By General Manning F. Force. New York: D. Appleton and Company. Pp. 353.
  5. Text-Book of Algebra, with Exercises for Secondary Schools and Colleges. By George Egbert Fisher and Isaac J. Schwatt. Part I. Philadelphia: Fisher & Schwatt. Pp. 683. Price, $1.26.