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


On the South African Frontier[1] is a narrative of the experiences and observations of the author, Mr. William Harvey Brown, partly as naturalist of the United States Government Eclipse-observing Expedition of 1889 to the west coast of Africa, and partly as a resident in various occupations for seven years in Rhodesia. The principal object in composing it was to give American readers a clearer idea of English operations in conquest and colonization on the South African frontier than it is possible to glean from current fragmentary accounts. The author served his apprenticeship at natural history collecting under Prof. L. L. Dyche, of the University of Kansas, and Mr. W. T. Hornady, of the New York Zoölogical Gardens, and was recommended by Mr. Hornady to the Government for the Eclipse Expedition. He sailed first to Freetown, then to St. Paul de Loanda, where he spent a few weeks collecting, establishing his headquarters at Bishop Taylor's American Methodist Self-supporting Mission. Thence, after a short attack of African fever, he proceeded to Cape Town, where he was attacked by the other sort of African fever—"an irresistible longing to penetrate the Dark Continent for purposes of exploration and of observing both man and Nature." He made the journey overland to Mafeting and to the Mashona country, in the region of which he spent seven years as "game-hunter, gold-seeker, landowner, citizen, and soldier," observing and participating in the settlement and early development of the new state of Rhodesia. The larger part of the book is devoted to his adventures and observations, "travel, collecting, hunting, prospecting, farming, scouting, fighting," and seeing pioneer life. Two chapters are devoted to ethnology. The race problems which arise during the stage of transition from barbarism, the agricultural and mineral resources of Rhodesia, and its prospects and possibilities, are discussed.

A very handsome book, in what to many are the most graceful and interesting forms of vegetable life, is Mrs. Parson's How to Know the Ferns.[2] The name of the author is new, but the author herself is a familiar friend to all lovers of American field and wild-wood life, for she is none other than Mrs. William Starr Dana, who had already given us How to Know the Wild Flowers and According to Season. In this book she does as she did with regard to the wild flowers—takes her readers to the haunts of the ferns and into their company, introduces us to them, and before she is done makes us well acquainted with them. "It seems strange," she says, "that the abundance of ferns everywhere has not aroused more curiosity as to their names, haunts, and habits." Possibly it is because they are so common that we are not at pains to seek greater intimacy with them. Then, they depend on the beauty of graceful proportion, which is less obvious to careless eyes than that of color. First, Mrs. Parsons discourses of Ferns as a Hobby, and the pleasure we may derive from them; then she tells when and where to find them, defines the terms used in speaking of them, explains their fertilization, development, and fructification, gives a list of notable fern families and descriptions of the American ferns classified into eight groups according to the arrangement of their spores, and completes the work with indexes of Latin and of English names and of technical terms.

The Microscopy of Drinking Water[3] is intended by Mr. Whipple primarily to serve as a guide to the water analyst and the water-works engineer by describing the methods of microscopic examination, assisting in the identification of the common microscopic organisms found in drinking water, and interpreting the results in the light of environmental studies. A second purpose is to stimulate a greater interest in the study of microscopic aquatic life and general limnology (the lessons of lakes and ponds) from the practical and economic point of view. The work is elementary in character. Principles are stated and illustrated, but the last ten years' accumulations of data are not otherwise attacked. The illustrations have been largely drawn from Massachusetts cases, from which there may be differences elsewhere, but not very great as to microscopic organisms. The latter half of the book is devoted to descriptions of a limited number of organisms, chosen for the most part from those commonest to the water supplies of New England, and those that have best illustrated the more important groups of microscopic animals and plants. Most of the illustrations have been drawn from living specimens or photomicrographs of such, but some are reproduced from other sources.

It is evidence of appreciation of Dr. Wetterstrand's Hypnotism and its Application to Medicine[4] that, written in Swedish, it has been translated into German and Russian, and now into English. The German work, from which the present translation is made, was enlarged from the original, and embodied the results of additional experience. The author disavows the intention of writing a manual or text-book, and modestly assumes only to have given "unpretentious notes by a physician who, under the pressure of a fatiguing and engrossing practice, has not been able to develop his rich material into a more complete form." The book is characterized by the translator as more practical than theoretical, and as offering the results of conscientious and able observation. Hypnosis is defined by Dr. Wetterstrand as embracing a number of various conditions of the nervous system, which can be produced in different ways. "We recognize phases of the greatest variety, from a slight heaviness in the limbs, the most superficial somnolence enabling the hypnotized subject to hear and perceive the least noise, to the deepest sleep, from which the greatest disturbance can not awake him, and wherein every sensation disappears and permits the most serious surgical operation without pain." The author believes that the majority of people can be brought into any of these conditions, but the methods and degrees of difficulty of the process are various. "Liébeault distinguishes five degrees in hypnotic sleep, Bernheim nine; but Wetterstrand thinks they may all be grouped under three. Suggestive therapeutics is regarded as by no means a panacea, but it succeeds in cases where other methods have failed," and, as Bernheim says, "often it produces miracles." After an outline of the general principles of the subject the author passes on to describe some diseases and morbid conditions in which he has employed hypnotism with the greatest results, culling from his notes, as impartially as possible, both successful attempts and failures. The cases include insomnia, the list of nervous diseases, drug diseases, consumption, rheumatic, heart, and other organic diseases, and functional affections; with the use of suggestive therapeutics in operations, obstetrics, and on some other occasions. Dr. Petersen's medical letters on hypno-suggestion, etc., added to Dr. Wetterstrand's work, are intended to give a succinct idea of the present status of practical psychic therapeutics, as based on the observation of clinical facts. They relate to suggestive treatment in reform work, post-hypnotic responsibility, and music in hospitals.

The original object of Mr. Henry Rutgers Marshall's essay on Instinct and Reason[5] was to present a conception of religion. In attempting to make his argument convincing he found it necessary to deal with questions which did not at first appear to relate to this subject, whereby the study of religion, though still the most important and interesting matter considered, is made to appear subsidiary to the treatment of instinct and reason. Believing that activities so universal in man as those which express his religious life must be significant in relation to his biological development, the author has attempted to outline a theory that will account for their existence and explain their biological import. In order to present this clearly he has made a special study of instinct and the relation of its activities with religious activities in general. This has naturally led to the study of impulse, and thus to a consideration of moral standards. The study of reason, too, has been found appropriate in connection with the consideration of the nature of religion. The genesis of religious customs and beliefs is touched upon only so far as seems necessary for the elucidation of other parts of the treatise. Concerning the relation of religion and morals, the author finds that religion teaches us to listen to the past, and gives enthusiasm to do the work commended by the "voice" of that past; it gives us the basis for the perfection of our moral code, but it does not give us this perfect moral code itself. When reason and the religious instinct are opposed we should, after reverent and full consideration, act in accord with reason, but should be cautious in guiding others that way, for the chances are decidedly that we are wrong, and "the rule of action which will best satisfy conscience, which will produce the closest correspondence between our action as viewed in retrospect and our most permanently efficient impulse series, is one which is based upon the religious instinct, and which involves the presence in mind of the sense of duty."

Mr. Arthur Berry has undertaken, in his Short History of Astronomy[6] to give an outline of the history of the science from the earliest times in a form intelligible to readers who have no special knowledge of astronomy or mathematics. Some compression having been necessary, it has been found possible to omit a considerable number of details which might receive treatment, and indeed would often require it in a treatise on the science. The author has deliberately abstained from giving any connected account of the astronomy of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Chinese, and other peoples who are usually supposed to have had a share in the early development of star-lore. Accounts of scientific instruments, except in a few simple and important cases, are omitted. But little is said of scientific discoveries that have to be described in technical mathematical language, and of speculative theories that have not been established or refuted. On the other hand, whatever pertains to the real history of astronomy has been given with sufficient fullness to make it plain; the principles which are illustrated by enormous masses of observations that there is no room to record; short biographical sketches of leading astronomers other than living ones; a considerable number of dates, such as those of the births and deaths of astronomers; and even descriptions of such obsolete theories as appear to form an integral part of astronomical progress. Among the illustrations are portraits of a few of the eminent astronomers of the past.

The special articles in the Bulletin of the Department of Labor, Nos. 18 and 19, are Wages in the United States and Europe, 1870 to 1898, in the September number, and Mr. Dunham's paper on The Alaskan Gold Fields and the Opportunities they offer for Capital and Labor, and Mutual Relief and Benefit Associations in the Printing Trade, by W. S. Wandly, in the number for November.

The Rev. Dr. Adam Miller is a retired minister who has devoted his leisure hours to the study of sunshine, in which he has included all that properly belongs to the sun. He has read the standard works on astronomy, and some, but apparently not all, the later results for comparison, it seems, rather than information, and he has performed some original and ingenious experiments with the sunlight. His views, therefore, as expressed in The Sun an Electric Light (Chicago), are his own. He has come to the conclusion that the material theories of the origin of the sun's light and heat do not account for the facts, and are therefore insufficient if not wrong; postulates a theory that the phenomena are matters of electric action made perceptible to us by refraction through the atmosphere, and makes an unnecessary and inconsequent attack on the theory of the conservation of forces. When Dr. Miller assumes that his views of the insufficiency of present theories and of the electrical nature of the sun's action are new, he shows that he is not fully read up in the current literature on the subject. The insufficiency of present views is confessed, and the discussions of the subject with the various suppositions which he criticises are efforts to find better explanations. The causal identity of electricity, heat, and certain other forces is accepted. But, given that electrical action is the basis of it all, what then? Philosophers know of no way of maintaining electric action except through material processes, and the way they are replenished to keep it up is as hard to find out as would be the way fuel is supplied to keep up a solar fire.

A pamphlet entitled The Story of the Rise of the Oral Method in America (of Instructing the Deaf and Dumb) as told in the Writings of the late Hon. Gardner G. Hubbard, compiled by Mrs. M. Gardner Bell, reveals a seeming indolence in the early instructors of the old method that is hardly creditable to their energy in investigation. When deaf-mute instruction was first projected here, a teacher was sent over to Europe to learn the best methods. Denied access to schools in London and Edinburgh, where articulation systems were taught, he went to Paris, found the Abbé de l'Epée's sign language there and brought it over. This and the finger language held sway in our schools for many years, while the possibility of teaching articulation to the deaf was denied. It required long-persistent effort on the part of a few men who refused to have their deaf children taught these systems and consequently isolated from their fellowmen to secure a recognized place for oral schools. The story of the struggle is told in Mrs. Bell's pamphlet.

The widespread ignorance and superstition with which even to-day the practicing physician has to contend are hardly conceivable by an outsider. The conditions under which a doctor knows his patients are just those calculated to bring out the weak spots in their mental organization, and the absurd notions which still have a foothold in many minds are a constant source of wonder to the speculative doctor. These superstitions are so widespread and so frequently dangerous to the whole community, as well as the individual himself, that anything which is calculated to improve matters, however so little, should be welcomed with open arms. Dr. Theme, by H. Rider Haggard, is aimed at the antivaccinators, and by means of a not uninteresting story points out the serious consequences which a general belief in this absurd crusade brought to an English city. The author labels his story as an attempt to forecast the "almost certain issue of the recent surrender of the English Government leaders to the clamor of the antivaccinationists."

The annual number of the Cumulative Index for 1898, constituting the third annual volume, is a book of seven hundred and ninety-two pages, and includes one hundred periodicals. It indexes—by authors, titles, and subjects, including reviews and portraits—what is important in the monthly and part of that in the weekly publications of the year. Special attention is given to portraits, reviews, and necrology. The Index is a very useful publication to writers and students of every sort, recording the articles as they appear month by month in a form that makes the knowledge of them easily accessible to one who seeks it. The numbers succeeding the first number of the volume include, besides their own fresh matter, that which has appeared in two or three previous numbers, saving the necessity of hunting up scattered editions. The annual volume contains all for the year. The Index is edited in the Public Library of Cleveland, Ohio, and is published by the Holman-Taylor Company in the same city.

Two papers bearing upon instruction of the deaf, published by the Volta Bureau, Washington, are statistics, by Alexander G. Bell, of the relative use in the United States of the several methods, and a collection of International Reports of Schools for the Deaf. The latter paper contains reports from sixteen countries.

  1. On the South African Frontier. The Adventures and Observations of an American in Mashonaland and Matabelaland. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Pp. 430, with map. Price, $3.
  2. How to Know the Ferns. A Guide to the Names, Haunts, and Habits of our Common Ferns. By Frances Theodora Parsons. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Pp.215. Price, $1.50.
  3. The Microscopy of Drinking Water. By George Chandler Whipple. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Pp. 300, with nineteen plates.
  4. Hypnotism and its Application to Medicine. By Otto Georg Wetterstrand, M. D. Authorized translation (from the German edition), by Henrik G. Petersen, M. D. Together with Medical Letters on Hypno-Suggestion, etc. By Henrik G. Petersen, M.D. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. Pp. 166.
  5. Instinct and Reason. An Essay concerning the Relation of Instinct to Reason, with some Special Study of the Nature of Religion. By Henry Rutgers Marshall. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 574. Price, $3.50.
  6. A Short History of Astronomy. By Arthur Berry. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. (The University Series.) Pp. 440. Price, $1.50.