Popular Science Monthly/Volume 55/September 1899/Fragments of Science

Fragments of Science.

Death of Dr. Brinton.—By the death of Dr. Daniel G. Brinton, at Atlantic City, N. J., July 31st, America loses one of the most industrious and intelligent students of its ethnology, languages, and antiquities. We think we may safely say of him that he did as much as any other single man among us to organize and systematize these studies and put them on a stable foundation and a broad basis. To them he devoted his time, his heart, and his fortune. Dr. Brinton was born in West Chester, Pa., in 1837; was a graduate of Yale College and of Jefferson Medical College; served in medical departments in the United States Volunteer Army during the civil war; was for several years editor of the Medical and Surgical Reporter and of the Quarterly Compendium of Medical Science; and was finally drawn predominantly to the study of American ethnology and languages, to which he contributed a long list of books, special articles, and paragraphs, a large proportion of them fruits of his own investigations. For his work in this department he received, in 1866, the medal of the Société Américaine de France. He was Professor of Ethnology and Archæology in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and of American Linguistics and Archaeology in the University of Pennsylvania, and was President of the Antiquarian and Numismatic Society of Philadelphia. He was President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1894. He established a library and publishing house of aboriginal American literature, and one of his most noteworthy works was the publication in this library of a series of original texts in the languages of North and South American tribes, with commentaries and translations, in the preparation of which he called in other Americanists to assist him. In this way he contributed much to save a literature and a history that were fast disappearing. A few months ago, as was mentioned in the Monthly at the time, he presented his entire collection of books, pamphlets, and manuscripts, many original and some unique, relating to the aboriginal languages of North and South America, to the University of Pennsylvania.

Nebraska as a Home for Birds.—Mr. Lawrence Bruner introduces his Notes on Nebraska Birds with the expression of a belief, founded on his own observations for twenty-five years, together with those of about fifty other persons to whose notes he has had access, that Nebraska, although a prairie State, has an unusually large bird fauna. The notes show 415 species and subspecies as visiting the State, while there are records of 227 species breeding within its borders, and of more than 700 winter residents. "When we learn that only about 780 species are recorded for the whole of North America north of the Mexican boundary, it certainly seems astonishing that from among them we should receive so large a percentage. If, however, we take into consideration the variations in altitude above sea level, the differences in surface configuration, climate, etc., that pertain to our State, its location, and the relation which it bears to the country at large, perhaps the wonderment will become less." The southeastern corner of Nebraska is only eight hundred feet, the western border almost six thousand feet, above tide water. The State is divided into timber, prairie, and plain regions. It lies in the middle of the United States, with a high mountain chain to the west and a giant water way along its eastern boundary. In fact, eastern, western, northern, and southern fauna meet in Nebraska, and it also has a fauna of its own. Forms are found there that belong to low and high altitudes, to wet and dry climates, to prairie and timbered countries, and to semi-desert and alkali regions.

The Power of the Imagination.—The following interesting experiment is described in the Psychological Review for July by E. E. Slosson, of the University of Wyoming: "I had prepared a bottle, filled with distilled water, carefully wrapped in cotton and packed in a box. After some other experiments in the course of a popular lecture I stated that I wished to see how rapidly an odor would be diffused through the air, and requested that as soon as any one perceived the odor he should raise his hand. I then unpacked the bottle in the front of the hall, poured the water over the cotton, holding my head away during the operation, and started a stop-watch while awaiting results. I explained that I was quite sure no one in the audience had ever smelled the chemical compound which I had poured out, and expressed the hope that while they might find the odor strong and peculiar it would not be disagreeable to any one. In fifteen seconds most of those in the front row had raised their hands, and in forty seconds the 'odor' had spread to the back of the hall, keeping a pretty regular 'wave front' as it passed on. About three quarters of the audience claimed to perceive the smell, the obstinate minority including more men than the average of the whole. More would probably have succumbed to the suggestion, but at the end of a minute I was obliged to stop the experiment, for some on the front seats were being unpleasantly affected, and were about to leave the room."

Government Scientific Work.—Mr. Charles W. Dabney, Jr., of Knoxville, Tenn., while having a very high opinion of the scientific work of the Government, finds it greatly scattered and confused, and often multiplied, among the departments. There are three distinct and seperate agencies for measuring the land of the country, four hydrographic offices in as many departments, and five separate and distinct Government chemical laboratories. The Coast Survey, the Naval Observatory, and the Weather Bureau are all engaged in studying the magnetism of the earth. Three distinct branches of the Interior Department are engaged in irrigation work, and the census has published a report on the subject, while the report of a board appointed to examine into the matter shows that eight bureaus of the Interior and Agriculture Departments must co-operate in order to accomplish any thorough work on the great problem of irrigation. The statistics of the natural resources and the products of the country, of exports and imports, of populations, schools, etc., are collected and compiled by eight or ten different agencies in five or six different departments. Mr. Dabney's remedy for this condition is the consolidation of all the scientific work under a single department, to constitute a National Department of Science. This seems hardly necessary. The scientific work of the departments has grown under the pressure of their necessities, relating chiefly to the examination of an unsettled and unexplored country. So long and so far as such work is essential to the legitimate work of the department it will have to be done within it. All work beyond this can be left to the Smithsonian Institution, the universities and scientific academies, and individual effort. The Government of the United States is not a scientific body.

American Indians and Mongolians.—In answer to Major Powell's theory, recently expressed anew, that while there may be a unity of species in the ancient physical man, the civilization, arts, industries, institutions, languages, and opinions of the American tribes were autochthonous, and owed nothing to Old-World influences; Mr. James Wickersham, of Tacoma, Washington, maintains that our Indians are connected in blood with the Mongolian stock of East Asia and none other, and that their arts, etc., were derived thence in comparatively recent times. In the comparison he makes, for argument, between the two races he finds a considerable number of features that were common and peculiar to both. Of both, the Chino-Japanese and the Americans, he says: "The most civilized tribes spoke a monosyllabic language, others spoke an agglutinative tongue; their writing was ideographic and written from right to left, from top to bottom; their systems of numeration were based upon the digital count, and their old numerals up to nineteen were practically identical; their calendar systems were alike in principle, and nearly so in details; both divided time into cycles and quarters thereof; the solar year in both regions began at the winter solstice, and the solstices were celebrated in both lands on the same day by the same national festivals; both prepared almanacs on paper of national manufacture; the good or evil power of every day was fixed by the priest-astronomer, and each almanac also contained medical receipts and astrological formulæ and a table of religious festivals; the same elements, colors, viscera, birds, seasons, and planets were assigned in the same general scheme to the cardinal points." Like similarities are traced in constitutions, laws, ecclesiastical institutions, monastic orders, and physical aspects.

The Teaching of Bows and Arrows.—What the study of so simple a subject as bows and arrows may reveal is illustrated by Mr. Herman Meyer's paper in the Smithsonian Report for 1896 on Bows and Arrows in Central Brazil; an introduction giving a general outline of a contemplated larger work which intended to set forth for the circumscribed region of the Matto-Grosso, how, through the harmonizing of different tribal groups, ethnographic types arise; what share the several associated tribes have had in this creation of groups; and, on the other hand, what ethnographic development within the group each tribe has undergone. While the South American Indian tribes have different special methods of capturing wild animals, they all have as the chief weapon the bow and arrow, which even the gun can not supplant. The tribes that are now sedentary, which practice hunting along with agriculture only for amusement, exercise still the greatest care upon the preparation of this weapon, and know how to use it with skill. In their sagas the bow and arrow still play an important part. They are regarded almost as sacred, and are frequently used as cult objects. When bows and arrows are exchanged for other weapons the children keep up the old reminiscences, and hold on to the bow and arrow as playthings. The South American Indian is accustomed to recognize the tribe by its arrow. A grouping by these weapons, a separation of forms according to specific marks of structure, is possible for the study of the tribes. The feathering, which seems to be capable of unlimited variation, is of great importance. A great deal of care may be bestowed on the fastening of the feather, on the wrapping of the shaft with thread, or upon the manner of fitting the feather. The wrapping of the feathered end or shaftment offers excellent opportunity to preserve certain textile patterns, perhaps the one remaining survival of the old tribal peculiarity. The fastening of the point to the shaft or to the foreshaft also affords a safe datum for discriminating, and the shape of the point furnishes a guide for differentiations.

An Aztec Pictorial Record.—The forty-four paintings of the Mapa de Cuauhtlantzinco were executed in oil colors on European paper by an artist named Tepozetecatl, and are of high importance in the history of the conquest of Mexico. The Pueblo of San Juan de Cuauhtlantzinco, to which they belong, is situated between the cities of Pueblo and Cholula, and is inhabited by about fifteen hundred people, who still speak the Aztec language. The pictures, each about sixteen by twelve inches in size, were discovered about thirty years ago by Padre D. José Vicente Campos, who, to save them from decay, had them pasted on cotton sheeting and mounted in two frames. They contain scenes from the conquest—not badly executed—and portraits of aborigines. Each bears a text in Nahuatl, which Padre Campos translated into Spanish and appended the translation to the original. Another series of ancient paintings somewhat like these was preserved for a long time at Tlaxcala, but, according to Prof. Frederick Starr, they were less personal and less local. They are called the Lienzo de Tlaxcala, and picture all the important events of conquest from the time when Cortes came into contact with the Tlascalans till the city of Mexico was captured. The Mapa de Cuauhtlantzinco deals with but little space; perhaps Texculco and Chalco and Quimistlan describe its limits. The pictures and the texts in Spanish and English have been copied by Professor Starr, who publishes them for their ethnological interest, in that they illustrate a practice, common at the time of the conquest, of painting representations of important matters; that they in many cases present successful portraits; that they are, in conception and execution, truly native works of art; that they give considerable information relative to daily life and customs; and that they are psychically interesting in showing the feelings of the natives shortly after the conquest toward their conquerors and toward the newly introduced religion. The town of Cuauhtlantzinco appears to have been settled between 1519 and 1528 by refugees from Cholula, who were driven away because they had gone to Tlaxcala to visit Cortes and invite him to come to their pueblo.

Permanence of the Fish Supply.—A Scottish fish commission has been for fifteen years conducting an experimental research on the capacity of the sea to bear the drain upon its resources made by the growing industry of trawl fishing along shore. Some first-ciass fishing grounds along the coast were closed for several years, in the anticipation that the fish, freed from molestation, would breed and multiply in them. The conclusion reached from examination of the results has been that fishing or no fishing makes no difference whatever. "On the preserved grounds there are no more fish, and no less, than when the trawls were daily dragged across the bottoms of the bays. For the rest of the areas frequented by trawlers beyond the three-mile limit the happy conclusion is that there are as many fish in the sea as ever, and that the supply does not diminish, in spite of the increased and increasing number of ships engaged in the fisheries and their fine equipment." The equipment of steam trawlers for the North Sea and the open ocean has become an immense industry in the east of England. Never have so much capital and labor been spent in harrying the fish since the fishing began. "Yet the take steadily increases as the boats increase. 'The great labor and expenditure of the last ten years prove that the balance of Nature in the neighboring seas is steadily maintained, and that there is no need for anxiety concerning the continuance of every species of good fish.'. . . . It is now clear that life in the sea is not dependent on what takes place near the shore. In other words, it is difficult to destroy marine life, so far as fish are concerned, by mischief done near the coast. Their area of propagation and reproduction is too large for land creatures like us, who can only invade the sea in boats, seriously to injure it." Yet the experiments and experience of the United States Fish Commission show that we are able to increase the supply immensely.

Relative Power of Fungicides.—Mr. F. L. Stevens has published, in the Botanical Gazette, an account of experiments made for the purpose of establishing with some degree of accuracy the strengths of various solutions which are necessary to prevent the growth of fungous spores. The bearing of this question upon the relation of a fungicide to its efficiency is apparent. As among the general results the author finds that mercuric chloride is the strongest chemical used in its toxic effect upon the fungi, while potassium cyanide is remarkably weak considering its great toxic action on animals. Alcohol and sodium chloride have a stimulating effect. Various fungi offer different resistance to poisons, and the limits of resistance will vary in the same species. The spores of fungi are less susceptible than the roots of seedlings. A chemical may be twice as powerful as another against one fungus, while in acting upon another fungus an entirely different ratio may be sustained. An occasional spore may germinate and grow quite normally in a solution that prevents hundreds of normal spores around it from germinating. Penicillium as a nutrient medium offered greater resistance to poisons than did any of the other fungi worked upon. Uromyces did not diminish in vigor of growth with the increased strength of the poison, but the percentage of spores that germinated was diminished. In general, the results of the action of the chemicals were in accord with the theory of hydrolytic association. Incidentally new evidence bearing upon the theory of the hydrolytic dissociation of the molecule was adduced, together with facts that may throw some light upon the structure of the cell wall.

National Forest Reserves.—The report of the Secretary of the Interior for the year ending June 30, 1898, mentions thirty forest reservations (exclusive of the Afognac Forest and Fish-Culture Reserve in Alaska) as existing by presidential proclamation under the act of March 3, 1891, embracing an estimated area of 40,719,474 acres. The patrolling of the reserves has shown that fire is the paramount danger to which they are exposed. Next to fire, sheep-raising is the most serious difficulty to be considered in administering the reserves. Yet, as it is not considered expedient to prohibit so important an industry throughout the reserves, special efforts have been directed toward ascertaining the particular regions in which the conditions demand the exclusion of sheep, and toward learning what restrictions may be necessary in other regions. The institution of a national system of timber cutting to be economical in all directions is under consideration, but it is acknowledged that the work will require a certain degree of experience and training on the part of forest officers. A forest system inaugurated by the department in August, 1898, in which the reserves are placed under the control of a graded force of officers, has already shown good results; the reports received from the forest officers indicate that the patrolling has limited both the number and extent of fires. During the eighteen months previous to the preparation of the report in November, 1898, a great advance was made toward a comprehensive administration of the public forests. A marked change in public sentiment toward forest policy is noticed, with a subsidence of the opposition to the reserves and a tendency among the people in the localities directly interested to take a deep and approving interest in the matter.

Sloyd as an Educational Factor.—Mr. Gustaf Larsson, of the Sloyd Training School, Boston, represents, in his Bulletin, that Sloyd is steadily gaining ground, and has been introduced, during the past year, into city schools, colleges, and charitable institutions, and that many clubs and social organizations are becoming interested in it as an educational factor. The Sloyd principles seem to meet a cordial welcome wherever they are adequately presented. Mr. Larsson insists that in Sloyd instruction the teacher should enter into the child's point of view, and must never forget, he says, that it is the real work which appeals to him, and not the particular exercise or the typical use of the tool. As Dr. Henderson says, it is not necessary to be forever suggesting to him that he is being educated. "We must see, feel, and think with the worker, and so introduce our disciplinary exercises that he practices them correctly while still carrying out his own dearest desire. In this way only can he get the greatest benefit from any exercise. We must constantly bear in mind that we are aiming at a well developed producer rather than a perfect product. . . . Whenever a piece of work, however poor in itself, stands for a child's best effort, it is a highly satisfactory production from the true teacher's point of view. He must remember also to keep constantly before us the fact that independence and self-reliance are to be cultivated from the outset." Sloyd claims to be peculiar in aiming at ethical rather than technical results, and at general organic development rather than special skill; in employing only pedagogically trained teachers; in using rationally progressive courses of exercises applied on objects of good form which are also of special use to the worker; in striving after gymnastically correct working positions in encouraging the use of both the left and right sides of the body; and in giving to each individual opportunity to progress according to his peculiar ability. These points have been emphasized in Sloyd from its beginning in Sweden more than twenty-five years ago.

Hawaiian Reptiles.—It is shown, in a paper on the subject by Dr. Leonhard Stejneger, published by the United States National Museum, that there are no true land reptiles in the Hawaiian archipelago other than a few species of lizards, all belonging to the cosmopolitan families—the geckoes (four species) and the skinks (three species). All of these, except one of the geckoes, belong to species widely distributed over the Indo-Polynesian island world, while the gecko excepted has close relatives in New Caledonia, Java, Sumatra, and Ceylon. This distribution is regarded by the author as not sustaining the theory of a once continuous land connection between the various island groups, but rather, by the limited number of species, as indicating that at the time of the immigration of the lizards the islands were separated from other lands. Yet these land creatures could not have been distributed over thousands of miles of ocean by ordinary means, and the agency of man has to be invoked. From various considerations it is permissible to conclude that they came to the islands with the ancestors of the Hawaiians. No records are known of any of the marine snakes having been taken at the Sandwich Islands. Marine turtles live in the seas surrounding the archipelago and breed upon some of its outlying islands, but little is known of them. There are no indigenous batrachians in the group, but frogs and toads are said to have been brought, intentionally, from China, Japan, and America to assist in the fight against mosquitoes.