Popular Science Monthly/Volume 55/September 1899/Minor Paragraphs


Miss Kingsley defines one of the fundamental doctrines of African fetich as being that the connection of a certain spirit with a certain mass of matter, a material object, is not permanent. "The African will point out to you a lightning stricken tree and tell you that its spirit has been killed; he will tell you when the cooking pot has gone to bits that it has lost its spirit; if his weapon fails, it is because some one has stolen or made sick its spirit by means of witchcraft. In every action of his daily life he shows you how he lives with a great, powerful spirit world around him. You will see him, before starting out to hunt or fight, rubbing medicine into his weapons to strengthen the spirit within them, talking the while, telling them what care he has taken of them, reminding them of the gifts he has given them, though those gifts were hard to give, and begging them in the hour of his dire necessity not to fail him. You will see him bending over the face of a river, talking to its spirit with proper incantations, asking it when it meets a man who is an enemy of his to upset his canoe or drown him, or asking it to carry down with it some curse to the village below which has angered him, and in a thousand other ways he shows you what he believes if you will watch him patiently. It is a very important point in the study of pure fetich to gain a clear conception of this arrangement of things in grades. As far as I have gone I think I may say fourteen classes of spirits exist in fetich. Dr. Nassau, of Gaboon, thinks that the spirits affecting human affairs can be classified completely into six classes."

At a recent meeting of the Institute of Mining Engineers (England), reported by Industries and Iron, Mr. J. A. Longden, who delivered the opening address, discussed the problem presented by the rapid exhaustion of the English coal fields. During the last twenty-five years, he said, the output of coal had increased from 120,000,000 to 200,000,000 tons, the ratio of increase being two and a half per cent per annum. Assuming that the increase for the next twenty-five years will only be one and a half per cent, the coal output in 1925 would reach 280,000,000 tons. At such an increasing annual output the commercially workable coal would be practically used up. Mr. Longden suggested the propriety of putting an export duty of sixpence per ton on all coal exported, and finally said: The evidence before them all pointed to one thing—namely, that in fifty years they would practically be dependent on the United States of America for cheap coal, iron, and steel, and when this came about "we or our sons will find out that an alliance with the United States for coaling our navy was imperative." In conclusion, he insisted upon the necessity of taking measures to avoid waste in the coal industry.

The following note is from Nature of May 11th: "At the last meeting of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland Dr. Elliot Smith settled a point in the comparative morphology of the brain which at one time was the subject of a heated controversy between Huxley and Owen. In 1861, it may be remembered, Owen maintained that the calcar avis and the calcarine fissure which causes it were characters peculiar to the brain of man, a statement which Huxley showed to be untrue, the formation being well marked in all primate brains. Dr. Elliot Smith has reached the further generalization that the calcar avis is a character shown by all mammalian brains, with the possible exception of the prototherian. He identifies—and the reasons for this identification do not seem capable of refutation—the calcarine fissure of the primate brain with the splenial fissure of the brain of other mammals. This generalization will materially assist in homologizing the primate and unguiculate pallium."

The influence of wind on the speed of steamers is of considerably more importance than is generally believed. In the Annalen der Hydrographie for January, 1899, L. E. Dinklage describes some observations recently made on two of the North German Lloyd steamers of about five thousand tons and fifteen or sixteen knots. The results show that when the wind was favorable no difference whatever could be detected in the speed of the vessels during a light breeze or a heavy gale. But with a beam (cross-wind) or head wind a reduction of from three to five knots and a half was produced. The obvious conclusion is that the wind when favorable never helps a fast steamer, but always hinders it when unfavorable. Probably with vessels steaming ten knots or less a favoring gale might increase the speed.


The burden of the president's address of J. B. Johnson before the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education is the necessity for our future material prosperity for a specific scientific training for the directors of each and every kind of manufacturing and commercial activity. Germany "has worked out this problem to a most fruitful issue," but its imperial and paternal method can not be imitated here, or probably anywhere else. The problem is a very difficult one with us, and it will be of no use to look to municipalities or Legislatures for its solution. There exist a few special high-grade industrial, commercial, mechanical, electrical, and mining schools, but they are entirely inadequate to answer the demands of the occasion. The author looks to organized commercial bodies like the one he is addressing as furnishing the best means for establishing the schools desired.

Prof. F. L. Washburn, of the University of Oregon, describes in the American Naturalist a curious specimen of the toad (Bufo columbiensis), which has an extra arm projecting from the left side just in front of the normal left arm. The extra arm has seven digits, and is without an elbow joint, but is slightly movable at the proximal joint next to the body. Its radius and ulna are separate bones, not fused as they are normally. The dissection shows other peculiarities of structure, such as might be expected from a consideration of the exterior. The species, normal, is common in parts of Oregon.

It is related of Charcot, the distinguished alienist, late of the Salpêtrière, Paris, that he had marked artistic ability, and when he was seventeen years old his family had some hesitation whether to make him a doctor or a painter, he chose the medical profession. He was fond of drawing sketches of his patients, and of landscapes he saw in his travels, and was not above making an occasional caricature. Several albums are filled with designs of this kind. A study of his work as an artist was prepared by Dr. Henri Meige in connection with the erection of his monument, and is deposited in the Salpêtrière.

The Russian decree nullifying the constitutional privileges of Finland, notwithstanding treaty guarantees, is producing an effect that was probably not intended or anticipated. Realizing the futility of resistance and holding the people true to their reputation of being the most peaceable, enlightened, and orderly of the Czar's subjects, the representatives of the Finns are said to be quietly making inquiries about the prospects of settlement in the Canadian Northwest and other free regions.

Despite the growing use of motor traction, the raising of horses gives no sign of diminishing. Against 212,827 horses in 1888, the Argentine Republic has, by the census of 1895, 4,234,032. That country now ranks third in horse-rearing nations, being excelled only by Russia and the United States.

M. André Broca has found, concerning the use of India-rubber supports for isolating physical apparatus from earth tremors, that when apparatus having movable parts are supported in this way the vibrations, instead of being reduced, may in some cases be increased tenfold. But when the apparatus consists entirely of rigid material there is no better way of insuring steadiness than by resting it on India rubber.

The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Tuberculosis works for the single end of educating the community in a knowledge of the true nature of consumption and of the means of controlling or conquering it. For this it diffuses literature, seeks the aid of persons in influential positions, and strives to obtain the requisite conditions for restoring those early afflicted and for preventing the communication of infection to others from those far advanced. Its main effort is directed toward the establishment of a municipal hospital for tuberculous patients, and for a sanatorium in the high regions of the State. For the last purpose it is offered a most desirable location in Luzerne County.

The list of recent deaths among men known in science includes the names of W. W. Norman, Professor of Biology in the University of Texas; John Whitehead, who died while on a scientific mission to the island of Hainan, for which he left England in the autumn of 1898; Naval Lieutenant Charles William Baillie, Marine Superintendent of the English Meteorological Office, inventor of the hydra sounding machine, late Director of Nautical Studies at the Imperial Naval College, Tokio, and author of important meteorological investigations, at Broadstairs, June 2th, aged fifty-five years; Henry Wollaston Blake, an original member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and of the British Association, and a Fellow of the Royal Society, eighty-four years of age; Edward Jannetaz, a French mineralogist, an assistant in the Museum of Paris, and Lecturer on Mineralogy for forty years. Master of Conferences in the Faculty of Sciences, author of Les Roches and other books, aged sixty-seven years; Dr. Eugen Ritter von Lommell, of the University of Munich, distinguished in mathematics, physics, and optics, and author of several books on those subjects, including The Nature of Light in the International Scientific Series, June 19th, in his sixty-third year; Sir Alexander Armstrong, arctic navigator and discoverer of the North-west Passage, late Director-General of the Medical Department of the British Muscum, and author of a narrative of his great discovery and of a work on Naval Hygiene: Dr. Hugo Weidel, Professor of Chemistry in the University of Vienna; Sir William Henry Flower, late Director of the British Museum of Natural History, Past President of the British Association, at the time of his death President of the Zoölogical Society of London, and author of several excellent books on zoölogy, natural history, museums, and kindred subjects, aged sixty-eight years; and Dr. Daniel G. Brinton, the distinguished American ethnologist and lingust, of whom we give a fuller notice elsewhere.