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

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 57‎ | June 1900

Scientific Literature.


The general interest which has been aroused the last few years in physical chemistry is reflected in the number of books which have appeared in this department. Some of these dwell more upon the older physical chemistry, devoting but relatively little space to the later developments, while others are chiefly concerned with the newer phases of the subject. Perhaps the most satisfactory book which has appeared along this line is Walker's 'Introduction to Physical Chemistry' (Macmillan). No attempt is made to exhaust the field but the subject is well covered. Especially commendable is the clearness of the book, which will render it useful to students. The non-mathematical treatment of the subject will also commend it to many who use it as an introduction to physical chemistry. A book of narrower scope is Dr. H. C. Jones's 'Theory of Electrolytic Dissociation and Some of Its Applications,' from the press of the same publishers. The author gives first a short review of the development of physical chemistry up to the days of van't Hoff, and then surveys the origin of the theory of electrolytic dissociation, its proofs and some of its applications. While making no pretense to cover the whole field of physical chemistry, the author furnishes a very readable account of the most important of the later generalizations. It is a book which should be read especially by those chemists and physicists who are working in other fields, that they may gain a fair view of the electrolytic dissociation theory written by one thoroughly competent for his task. Biologists, too, will find the latter part of the book, treating of the applications of the theory to animal and plant life, of especial interest. Dr. Jones, with S. H. King, has also translated Biltz on 'Practical Methods of Determining Molecular Weights.' This is a successful attempt to gather together the best of the different methods of real value, and it is very satisfactorily carried out, presenting a good guide book for students.


In the production of text-books of general chemistry, there seems to be a little lull, very few books having appeared in recent months. The first part of what promises to be a somewhat original work on inorganic chemistry, by Dr. Sperber, has appeared. After the introduction on general chemical laws, the elements of the seventh group (chlorine, etc.), are first considered, and then their hydrogen compounds; the sixth group (oxygen, etc.) and its hydrogen compounds; fifth group (nitrogen, etc.), etc. The method used is purely inductive, each subject being introduced by experiments from which the underlying principles are developed.


A third edition of Elliott and Ferguson's 'Qualitative Analysis' has appeared which is a considerable improvement upon the previous editions. The principal merit of this book, is in the opinion of many its greatest drawback. In clearness and minuteness of directions it is hardly equalled by any manual of qualitative analysis, and thus it is a particularly easy book for the instructor to use, especially with a large class. But this, on the other hand, cannot fail to encourage mere mechanical work on the part of the student and to discourage independence. With large classes, however, it is a difficult problem how best to cultivate individuality of work.


A little manual of 'Analysis of White Paints,' by G. H. Ellis, will prove of value to chemists to whom now and then paint samples are brought for analysis. It is a collection of notes by a chemist who has had much experience along this line.


In the field of applied chemistry quite a number of books have come out lately, the most useful of which is probably the seventh volume of 'The Mineral Industry.' The field of mineral resources and industries of the world is very thoroughly surveyed, and the volume is brought as closely down to date as possible. In this respect it has a great advantage over the corresponding publication of the United States Government. Among the subjects which are treated very thoroughly in the present volume are calcium carbid, fire brick and paving brick, coal mining methods and their economic bearing, progress in the metallurgy of copper and of gold, notes on the progress of iron and steel metallurgy (by Henry M. Howe), sulfuric acid, progress in ore dressing (by Robert H. Richards). It is a book necessary to the teacher, of great value to the economist and of much interest to the general reader. The second edition of McMillan's "Electro-metallurgy* is a considerable improvement on the former edition, and is brought well down to date. The greater part of the book is devoted to the electro-deposition of metals, and is thorough and satisfactory. It is, however, unfortunate that the treatment of electrometallurgical ore-extraction should be very inadequate, this whole subject, together with electro-refining, being confined to a single chapter of thirty pages.


Lange's 'Chemische-technische Untersuchungsmethoden' is passing through its fourth edition, of which the second volume is just out. This treats of metals and metallic salts, fertilizers, fodders, explosives, matches, gas manufacture, ammonia and coal tar and inorganic colors. The book aims at exhaustive treatment, and while some subjects are in parts weak, as is naturally the case where there are many different authors, it is as a whole the best work in its field.


A book in a new line is H. and H. Ingle's Chemistry of Fire and Fire Prevention' (Spon and Chamberlain). The book takes its origin from lectures delivered to an audience of insurance men. After three chapters on the history and theory of combustion, various industries more or less connected with fire are taken up; coal gas, dust explosions, fuel, illuminants, explosives, oils, volatile solvents, paints and varnish making, textile manufactures, spontaneous combustion, are some of the subjects treated. The last chapter is a quite useful one on fire prevention and extinction. The book contains much useful information and should prove of very considerable value outside of the rather limited audience to which it is addressed.



The past few months have witnessed the publication of many important works on zoölogical subjects, and among these it may not be amiss to note first Kingsley's 'Text-Book of Vertebrate Zoölogy,' since it adopts a new method, that of showing the bearing of embryology upon the morphology of vertebrates, and in turn, of morphology upon their classification. Its object is stated to be to "supplement both lectures and laboratory work, and to place in concise form the more important facts and generalizations concerning the vertebrates," and the author has succeeded in crowding a large amount of information into the 439 pages of the work. The illustrations are numerous, and for the most part very good, comprising some figures that have appeared in other text-books and some that are the outcome of Dr. Kingsley's own work. It is to be noted that in place of many of the standard European forms that have done morphological duty for years, we have such American types as Acanthias, Necturus, Amblystoma and Sceloporus, a change for which we are duly grateful.


Parker and Haswell's admirable 'Manual of Zoölogy' has been revised and adapted for the use of American schools and colleges. It aims to give an outline of the structure and morphology of certain typical members of the various classes of animals and also briefly discusses such zoölogical questions as evolution, descent and distribution. An 'Elementary Course of Practical Zoölogy,' by T. J. Parker and W. N. Parker, has been issued somewhat on the lines of Huxley and Martin's 'Biology,' aiming to give a rather detailed account of the structure of a few types instead of glancing at the animal kingdom as a whole.


Books on birds, and especially those devoted to the popularizing of ornithology, continue to be numerous, and among them may be mentioned Keeler's 'Bird Notes Afield,' which introduces us in a pleasant way to the better-known birds of California, a subject of which Mr. Keeler is well qualified to treat. Less attractive from a literary standpoint, but more important from a practical point of view, is Lange's 'Our Native Birds: How to Protect Them and Attract Them to Our Homes,' which discusses the various causes for the decrease of birds, and suggests methods by which this may be prevented. Of a totally different character is Shelley's 'Birds of Africa,' now in process of publication, the first part of Vol. II having recently appeared. While many undescribed forms may be expected from Africa in the future, this work brings the subject down to date. 'The Birds of South Africa' are described in one compact volume by Arthur C. Stark, and the Australian Museum is now issuing a new edition of 'A Catalogue of Nests and Eggs of the Birds of Australia,' by Alfred J. North, the original having long been out of print. It is to be hoped that the first volume of the new hand-list of birds, 'Nomenclator Avium turn fossilium tum viventium,' by R. Bowdler Sharpe, which was published last fall, may soon be followed by others, as the completed list will be a boon to all working ornithologists. Finally, it may not be known to all our readers that last year Newton's 'Dictionary of Birds' was issued in one volume at a reduced price.


The second and final part of 'Insects,' of the Cambridge Natural History, by David Sharp, gives us one of the most important, if not the most important work on entomology that has appeared for a long time, the two volumes forming a condensed encyclopædia of entomology that will be needed by all working entomologists. Another useful work on entomology is Carpenter's 'Insects, Their Structure and Life,' that portion devoted to the 'life' of insects being the best, particularly the chapter on 'Insects and Their Surroundings.' Of a strictly popular nature is Scudder's 'Every-day Butterflies,' which deals in a charming way with some sixty species of eastern North America.



The beginning of the year has been marked by the appearance of the usual number of elementary and popular books dealing with some phase of botany. Among these Professor Barnes's 'Outline of Plant Life' (H. Holt & Co.) is a simplified edition of a high school text of a year earlier. Only the gross anatomy of the plant is considered and the ordinary routine of beginning with the simpler forms and advancing to ones of successively more complex structure is followed, and the principles of reproduction and physiology are presented. The student is given an insight into the adaptive processes of the plant by a study of the special forms which live in the water, dry soil, deserts, and other special conditions.


'Lessons in Botany,' by Professor Atkinson (H. Holt & Co.) is a similar edition of a high school text designed to meet the needs of students in half-year courses. The student is led to an interest in the plant by a consideration of seedlings and buds, then launched in a course dealing with types of varying morphological constitution with attention to physiology and morphology. The taxonomy of some of the more important families of seed plants is discussed in a special section. The author pays tribute to the present leaning toward ecology by chapters on seed distribution, the struggle for the occupancy of land, zonal distribution, soil formation in rocky regions and moors, plant communities, and adaptations of plants to climate.


In 'Nature and Work of Plants' (Macmillan) Dr. MacDougal approaches the subject of botany by a study of the functions of the plant, of the things which it must do to live and adapt itself to its surroundings. Such an introduction to the subject from the physiological point of view is a radical innovation in the matter of elementary texts. A second departure from the practice of current texts is the omission of illustrations, in order that the attention of the student may not be distracted from the plant at work by a picture of something it has done. The technique is simple and the book seems well-fitted to awaken enthusiastic interest and lead the student further into the subject. Chapters are devoted to such subjects as: composition and purposes of plants, the manner in which the different kinds of work are divided among the members of the body, the way in which new plants arise, and the relations of plants to each other.


Miss Alice Lounsberry's 'Guide to the Trees' (Stokes & Co.) is an example of a type of popular books in botany indispensable to the amateur, and of great value to the working botanist. Nearly two hundred species, including shrubs, have been described. "Among them are all those most prominent in northeastern America, and a few distinctive or rare species from the South and West. Several also that are not indigenous but which have become identified with the tree life of this country are presented." The author has grouped forms of similar habit together in such manner that sections are devoted to: Trees preferring to grow in moist soil, lowlands and meadows; trees preferring to grow near water, in swamps, and running streams; trees preferring to grow in rich soil, in forests and thickets, and trees preferring to grow in light, dry soil and upland places. The general notes of information appended to the technical descriptions add much to the reading value of the book, which is beautifully illustrated by sixty-four colored plates, after paintings by Mrs. Rowan, and a hundred sketches in black and white.


The amount of interest centered in the preservation of the forests of the national domain, and the establishment of forestry in the courses of several educational institutions, makes Mr. Bruncken's 'North American Forests and Forestry' (Putnam & Sons) most timely. The author discusses the sociological aspects of forestry, and the distribution of forests in North America. It is of interest to note that the forest is treated as a living plant formation subject to many vicissitudes in the struggle for existence with neighboring societies of plants, particularly with the bog and prairie. The fate of the forest in front of the advancing pioneer is well delineated, and forest finance management and protection are most sensibly considered. Perhaps no other work offers the citizen such a rational presentation of all aspects of the numerous questions involved in forestry as the one under discussion.


Sachs's 'Physiology of Plants' has long been a classic among botanists because of the immense amount of new results which were brought out in its pages, marking the dawn of a new epoch in the history of botanical investigation. A large share of its conclusions have become invalidated by the general advance of the subject, however, and the next most notable work, Pfeffer's 'Plant Physiology,' is one which is bound to exert even a more lasting influence in the guidance and furtherance of research. The first volume issued, dealing with the metabolism and sources of energy in plants, is cyclopedic in its completeness of review of investigations in this phase of the physiology without cumbering its bibliographical lists with titles of unimportant papers. In general, subjects yet under controversy are set forth with judicial fairness, and the author has made himself familiar with the work of Russian, English and American botanists in a manner not practiced by some of his contemporaries. The translation of this work by Dr. Ewart (Clarendon Press) has given opportunity for the correction of any slight omissions in the bibliography, and the completed book must be regarded as of the greatest value not only to the botanist but to the animal physiologist who would cover the domain of that illusive subject known as "general physiology."



Probably the most striking sign of the increasing interest in the study of primitive man is the organization of well-equipped expeditions for the investigation of prehistoric remains and particular groups of existing savages. Of the latter class, the Cambridge expedition to Torres Straits, under the leadership of Professor A. C. Haddon, has returned to England, and various preliminary reports of the results of its work have already appeared. A new departure in the scheme of work of this expedition was the introduction of psychological observations under experimental conditions among the natives. The tests which were made were necessarily simple, but covered a fairly wide field. They included tests of visual acuteness, color vision and color blindness, acuteness and range of hearing, appreciation of tones and differences of rhythm, tactile acuteness and localization, estimation of weights, simple reaction-times to visual and auditory stimuli, estimation of intervals of time, memory and a number of tests of a more general character.


The detailed results have not yet appeared, but it is evident that there is much of interest to be expected. For example, of about two hundred and fifty individuals of different tribes tested for color blindness, not a case was found, except on one island, where three out of eight subjects suffered from ordinary red-green blindness. Reaction-times are said to be shorter than among the uneducated classes of European peoples, but no figures have as yet appeared. A fact, important if true, is the reported lack of suggestibility among the natives of the region. This is directly opposed to the general observations of most ethnographers and seems hardly probable. On all points the detailed reports are needed.


On this side of the world public attention has been called particularly to the admirable plans of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, which has been at work for the past three years on the northwest coast of America and the opposite coast of Asia. During the year just past the first published accounts of its results have begun to appear in a series of handsome monographs from the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Professor Franz Boas, the director of the expedition-, furnishes the first two memoirs, one on 'Facial Paintings of the Indians of British Columbia' and the other on the 'Mythology of the Bella Coola Indians.' The first named is of importance because of its bearing on the evolution of decorative designs. The Indians of the northwest coast differ from most other primitive groups in the matter of decoration by their failure to develop geometric designs and their tendency to retain realistic portrayals with certain characteristic modifications. In the adaptation of the decorations to the human face the problem has been difficult and a large number of examples are given showing the method of solution. The memoir on Bella Coola mythology is the first account of the complex conceptions of these Indians which can lay any claim to completeness. The Bella Coola conception of the universe is interesting. They believe in five worlds, one above the other, of which the middle one is the earth. Above this are spanned two heavens and beneath, two underworlds. In the upper heaven resides the supreme deity, who interferes little with the affairs of men; in the lower heaven dwell the Sun and all the other deities who are more intimately connected with mankind. The first underworld is inhabited by ghosts who may rise to the first heaven and be sent again to earth, and in the second underworld dwell the ghosts of those who have died a second death; from this there is no return. Other memoirs in the series are 'The Archæology of Lytton, B. C.,' by Harlan I. Smith, descriptive of the work of the expedition in that line; 'The Thompson Indians of British Columbia,' by James Teit, which is an exhaustive ethnographical account of that tribe, and 'The Basketry Designs of the Salish Indians,' by Livingston Farrand, in which is shown the development of geometric designs from realistic forms among the Indians of the Salish stock, a development which contrasts sharply with that of the neighboring stocks described by Boas.


With the results of field-work pouring in and the constant modifications of theory brought about thereby, it becomes a task practically impossible to write a general 'Anthropology' which will not be out-of-date before it issues from the press. Nevertheless, from time to time the attempt is made and one of the latest ventures is 'Man, Past and Present,' by Mr. A. H. Keane (University Press, Cambridge). It is a general classification and description of the races of man which is open to the same objections as to validity of classification as can be offered to any work on the subject at the present stage of knowledge. At the same time it contains much information in compact form, is not technical and will doubtless be useful. Of similar scope is 'The Races of Man,' by J. Deniker, which has just appeared in English form (Scribner's Contemp. Sci. Series). This work, also compact, is somewhat more technical than Keane's and also more accurate. It contains an appendix with brief tables of measurements and indices adapted for quick reference.


Of more special studies, unquestionably the most important work of the year is Messrs. Spencer and Gillen's 'The Native Tribes of Central Australia' (Macmillan). This extraordinarily minute account of the customs of the tribes with which it deals has already begun to attract the attention which it deserves. The problems upon which it throws light are numerous, but probably that of most general interest is Totemism, with its many social and religious bearings. The origin of this well-known savage custom has been a puzzle and heretofore not even a plausible suggestion has been made toward its solution. Messrs. Spencer and Gillen's account of the totemic ceremonies of the Arunta tribe, however, points irresistibly toward a definite economic origin, an attempt to preserve and increase the totemic animals and objects for the good of the tribe. The underlying relation between the clansman and his totem, as well as the social relations between the members of a clan, with the rules regarding marriage and the resultant modification of the family organization, are all analyzed with quite exceptional skill and in this and other fields the book is destined to become a classic.