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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 57/July 1900/Scientific Literature

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 57‎ | July 1900

Scientific Literature.

The memoirs presented to the Cambridge Philosophical Society on the occasion of the jubilee of Sir George Stokes, have been published in a stately volume by the Cambridge University Press. A year ago some four hundred men of science met at Cambridge to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the appointment of Sir George Stokes to the Lucasian professorship of mathematics, a chair held by Newton and a distinguished line of mathematicians. An official account of the proceedings, with a portrait of Professor Stokes, is given in the volume now issued. The seventy-two institutions sending delegates are arranged chronologically in the order of their foundation, and it is not unworthy of note that among the sixteen oldest institutions, the United States has five representatives, whereas Great Britain has thirteen universities and colleges younger than the Johns Hopkins University. The Rede lecture given by M. Alfred Cornu and entitled 'La théorie des ondes lumineuses,' is published in French, even the quotations from Newton's 'Opticks' being translated into that language. M. Cornu states that by 'une etude approfondie' of the 'Opticks,' his lecture shows that Newton favored Descartes's undulatory theory of light, rather than the emission theory usually attributed to him. The twenty-two memoirs that follow cover a wide range of subjects, nearly all of which have, however, a connection with the researches of Professor Stokes. They include three contributions from the United States, mathematical papers by Profs. E. W. Brown and E. O. Lovett, and a description by Professor Michelson of his echelon spectroscope.

In addition to this memorial volume, the Cambridge University Press, which is represented in America by The Macmillan Company, is at present publishing the collected papers of three eminent students of mathematical physics. The first volume of Lord Rayleigh's 'Scientific Papers' contains seventy-eight contributions published from 1869 to 1881. The early papers show the influence of Maxwell, Lord Rayleigh's predecessor in the chair of experimental physics at Cambridge, but it was apparently not until 1881 that he fully appreciated the importance of Maxwell's electro-magnetic theory of light. The papers on acoustics were followed by the publication in 1877 of the classical work on the 'Theory of Sound.' Lord Rayleigh, at an early period, treated various optical subjects, including some of the phenomena of color vision. His explanation of the blue color of the sky and his treatment of the resolving power of telescopes are well known. The contributions on optics and acoustics have been continued to the present time, but they by no means limit his interests. There are important papers on hydrodynamics and mathematics, and longer and shorter contributions on a great range of subjects in mathematical physics, the science which at the present day is perhaps of supreme importance.

The second volume of Professor Tait's 'Scientific Papers' contains those published since 1881. The first volume consisted of sixty papers, and this volume, which has followed with but little delay, adds seventy-three. As must be the case in collected papers, some are elaborate treatises while others fill only part of a single page; some are extremely technical while others were first published in the 'Encyclopædia Britannica' and the 'Contemporary Review.' Among the more elaborate papers are those on the physical properties of water contributed to 'The Voyage of H. M. •S. Challenger,' on the kinetic theory of gases, on impact and on quaternions.


The third series just published by the Cambridge Press is the 'Papers on Mechanical and Physical Subjects', by Prof. Osborne Reynolds, of Owens College. The first volume contains forty papers from transactions and journals issued from 1869 to 1882. The most elaborate memoir is that on certain dimensional properties of matter in the gaseous state, which includes experiments on thermal transpiration of gases through porous plates and a theoretical extension of the dynamic theory of gas. Many of the papers, such as those on meteorological phenomena and the steering of vessels, are of popular interest. The Cambridge University Press is performing a work of the utmost value to science in undertaking the publication of these great volumes, and we can only regret that, in spite-of the beginnings made at Johns Hopkins, Chicago, Pennsylvania and Columbia, American men of science have no such opportunities for the publication of their works as those afforded at Cambridge and Oxford.



That a large amount of popular interest centers in the study of tree life and all subjects incidental to forestry and horticulture is evidenced by the appearance of a second book on the subject under the title of 'Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them' (Scribners), by Harriet L. Keeler. The volume in question takes up the trees native of northern United States east of the Rocky Mountains, together with a few well-known foreign species which have become naturalized in this region.

The book opens with a key to the families of dicotyledonous species based upon leaf characters, and every species receives not only a full technical description, but also comes in for interesting comments upon habit and general ecological relations. Numerous drawings and half-tones add to the accuracy and clearness of the descriptions. It is not too much to say that the photographic reproductions surpass in beauty and presentation of detail any recent botanical publication, and the venation of leaves is shown in most instances by this method quite as well as it might be done by means of pen and ink sketches. Tne value of the descriptions is heightened by the inclusion of notes of economic interest. It is not unexpected that some errors should creep into the discussions on almost all phases of botany which are interspersed throughout the volume.

The appearance of a new botanical dictionary is most timely, and it is fortunate that the task of its preparation should be undertaken by such a skilful bibliographer as Mr. B. D. Jackson. His 'Glossary of Botanical Terms' (Lippincott) contains fifteen thousand words, or three times as many as have been included in any previous work of this character. This is indicative of a most energetic pursuit of investigations in all departments of the subject, and also of a lamentable tendency to the coinage by botanists of new and unnecessary terms upon the slightest pretext. A legitimate factor in the increase of the contents of such a work consists in the inclusion of words in common use which take on a technical meaning in botany: such, for instance, as altitude, abnormal, abrupt, absolute, accidental back, etc.

Derivations are given, but the history of the terms has not been attempted. According to the author, 'anlage' may be variously rendered as rudiment, inception or primordium. 'Chlorophyll' receives the double consonant at the end of the last syllable against the popular extra-botanical practice. Regarding 'medullary' the author says: "I have given the accent as it is always spoken (medul'-lary) though all of the dictionaries (botanical?) accent it as med'-ullary except Henslow's." In this the author had in mind the practice among his insular colleagues only, since the latter pronunciation is given in the Standard, Century and Webster "s Dictionaries and is followed by nine tenths of the American botanists. "Mycorhizome = mycorrhiza-like structures in Corallorhiza and Epipogum roots," and "Mycorrhiza = symbiotic fungi on the roots of plants, prothallia, etc.," are not only incongruous with orthography and botanical fact, but also with the usage of all recent writers on this subject.

While many other errors of this character could be adduced, the general value of the book is scarcely lessened, and it will be of the greatest service to the working botanist, not only in raising the general literary tone of his writings, but also in placing at his command a choice of all of the established terms dealing with any phase of the subject; an aid which will be greatly conducive to increased accuracy of statement.

A decade since, the majority of the botanists engaged in the study of the distribution of plants on this continent, as well as the strict systematists, were quite unanimously of the opinion that the territory within the boundaries of the United States had been quite thoroughly explored, and that the task of the collector are well-nigh done. Despite this discouraging conclusion a few enthusiastic workers have not intermitted their labors in a more critical consideration of the floras of the newer and less thickly settled regions, with the result that scores and hundreds of new species have been brought to light each year, and the awakening interest in the subject promises a re-exploration of the great West.

A striking example of the results awaiting the student in this line is afforded by Dr. Rydberg's 'Flora of Montana and the Yellowstone Park' (New York Botanical Garden), which has reeently appeared. Although the first collections of plants in this region were made by the Lewis and Clarke expedition nearly a century ago, Dr. Ryberg finds 163 new species and varieties in the 1,976 which he lists in this volume.

Of this number 487 are found on both the eastern and western slopes of the continental divide, 268 on the eastern side only, 520 on the western side only, 42 of which are arctic and inhabit the high mountain summits, and 659 which have originated in the exact region under discussion. Seven hundred and seventy-six of the species listed were not included in Coulter's 'Rocky Mountain Botany,' published a few years ago.

The symposium on the 'Plant Geography of North American,' to be given at the coming meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, will do much to systematize investigations of this character and broaden the method of treatment accorded the subject in the future.



The 'Biological Lectures from the Marine Laboratory of Woods Holl, 1899,' make up a volume of about three hundred pages which represent fairly the present tendencies of biological investigation in this country. The most striking things about the lectures are the wide range of topics which they treat, and the first-hand quality of the subject matter in each case. This is most clearly seen by a careful reading of the text, but a mere enumeration of a few of the sixteen titles and lectures makes it fairly obvious. Thus, D. P. Penhallow writes on 'The Nature of the Evidence Exhibited by Fossil Plants, and its bearing upon our Knowledge of the History of Plant Life;' D. T. MacDougal writes on the 'Significance of Mycorrhizas' Edward Thorndike on 'Instinct,' Herbert S. Jennings on 'The Behavior of Unicellular Organisms,' Alpheus Hyatt on 'Some Governing Factors usually neglected in Biological Investigations,' T. H. Morgan on 'Regeneration,' C. B. Davenport on 'The Aims of the Quantitative Study of Variation,' Jacques Loeb on 'The Nature of the Process of Fertilization.'

To the professed scientist these lectures will furnish expert opinion on certain important topics; the general reader will find in them a presentation not too technical or detailed. Professor Loeb's lecture, for example, is for such readers the best account yet given of his experiments in artificial fertilization.

The range and originality which characterize these lectures are really characteristic of the general work and spirit of the Woods Holl Laboratory. Few people realize the amount of research work which is done there from summer to summer. Yet last year there were seventy-one investigators there. Moreover, these represent a superior selection from among the instructors and students of the various colleges.

It is a symptom of a healthy, vigorous condition in biological science that the best workers of the country are glad to devote their vacation season to research, and it is highly creditable to the Woods Holl management that it offers them such attractive facilities. Similar summer laboratories are now being established in other parts of the country, and are to be reckoned with as very important factors in the progress of biology.



It is a somewhat surprising fact that among educated people of scientific training there prevails generally the greatest ignorance as to some of the most important problems of biology. We refer to those problems connected with the structure and functions of the animal and plant cell. Men who can understand and appreciate recent discoveries in astronomy, physics, chemistry and geology are usually wholly lost in cytology. In fact, in general writing or speech it is not safe to use this name without at once defining it, since it is commonly supposed to be a mispronunciation or a stupid misspelling of 'psychology,' while to most people nuclei, chromosomes, centrosomes and mitotic spindles are words without meaning, signifying nothing.

The reason for this is twofold: First, cytology is one of the newest of the biological sciences and it has but recently found its way into college curricula, and second, there have been few text-books or general works on this subject to which an intelligent layman could turn for information.

And yet, in spite of this fact, there are few fields of scientific work possessing more general interest than that of cytology. At the present day the greatest problems of biology are centered in the cell. Assimilation, growth, metabolism, reproduction, differentiation, inheritance and variation—these are at bottom cellular phenomena, the result of the structure and functions of cells. It is not surprising, therefore, that "all the searchlights of science have been turned upon the cell," and that cell studies during the past ten years have received an amount of attention which is comparable only to that devoted to evolution under the stimulus of Darwin's work.


Professor Wilson's book on the cell,[1] the second edition of which has just appeared, is a work of more than ordinary interest, not only to the biologist, but to all persons who are interested in the general advance of science. Although there are several other good text-books of cytology which have appeared during the past five or six years, Professor Wilson's book, in thoroughness of treatment, in philosophical insight, in clearness and forcefulness of style and in wealth and beauty of illustrations, easily surpasses them all.

It is impossible in this brief note to give any adequate summary of the volume or of the position of the author on questions of general interest; the subjects of the chapters, however, may serve to give some idea as to the scope of the work. After an introduction which gives a brief historical sketch of the cell theory and its relation to the evolution theory, there are taken up in successive chapters a general sketch of cell structure, cell division, the germ cells, fertilization of the ovum, the formation of the germ cells and the halving of their nuclei preparatory to fertilization, cell organs and their relations to each other and to the life of the cell, cell chemistry and cell physiology, cell division in its relation to the development of the egg, and finally, some theories of inheritance and development. In addition, there is appended an excellent glossary and a list of all the most important literature on the subject up to the current year.

While the work is undoubtedly intended as a reference book for investigators and advanced students in biology, being marked by the thoroughness of treatment of an original communication, it is yet so well written and so copiously illustrated as to make it not only intelligible but also intensely interesting to the general reader.



The most important recent book on education is undoubtedly 'Education in the United States,' a book prepared in connection with the educational exhibit of this country at the Paris Exposition. It consists of a series of monographs which cover all the important phases of educational endeavor in the United States. The two volumes include nearly a thousand pages, almost all of which present definite and reliable facts. Only rarely is there any indulgence in expressions of private opinion, and still more rarely is such opinion questionable. The editor is justified in his statement that the book is 'a cross-section view of education in the United States in 1900.' It will be of great value to the student of American institutions or of education in general, and should be of interest to any citizen who desires to be well informed about his country. The quality of the monographs will be evident from the list of the author's names. For instance, those writing on higher education are Prof. A. F. West, of Princeton; Prof. E. D. Perry, of Columbia; President Thomas, of Bryn Mawr; Director Parsons, of the University of the State of New York; President Mendenhall, of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Prof. H. B. Adams, of Johns Hopkins.

  1. The Cell in Development and Inheritance. Edmund B. Wilson. Second Edition Revised and Enlarged. Columbia University Biological Series IV. New York and London, The Macmillan Co., 1900. Pp. xxi, 483 with 194 Figures in the Text. $3.50