Popular Science Monthly/Volume 57/May 1900/Minor Paragraphs


A conference was appointed, to be held at Wiesbaden, Germany, October 9th and 10th, to promote the formation of an International Federation of Science—a scheme which was referred to in Sir Michael Foster's presidential address before the British Association. This idea for the establishment of an international association of great learned societies appears, the London Athenaæum says, to be the outcome of discussions carried on at Göttingen in 1898. For some time past the Academies of Vienna, Munich, Göttingen, and Leipsic have been federated into an association or "Castell," each meeting in turn at their respective headquarters to talk over scientific matters of joint interest. At two or three recent meetings questions were brought up, such as antarctic research and the cataloguing of scientific literature, which, besides being of sufficient inter-academic value to come before the "Castell," were of prime importance to English men of science. English delegates were therefore invited to attend, and did so; and out of this invitation has grown a desire for a wider international basis for the association. The adherence of the principal learned societies of the world, including our National Academy, is said to have been secured to the movement.

The thirteenth season of the Department of Botany at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Holl, Mass.. will open July 5th and continue till August 16th. Three laboratory courses are provided, accompanied by lectures, including the subjects of cryptogamic botany, plant physiology, and plant cytology and micro-technique. The principal instructors are Dr. Bradley R. Davis, Mr, George T. Moore, and Dr. Rodney H. True. The department extends a special welcome to investigators, and desires their co-operation in the development of the laboratory. Woods Holl offers great attractions in variety of material and facilities for biological research, and is proposed as an excellent center of resort where the botanists of the country may meet for a few weeks. A six weeks' course in Nature study, including both animals and plants, and consisting largely of field work, is a new feature offered this year for the first time.

On Friday, March 9th, occurred the death of two of the six surviving founders of the American Association for the Advancement of Science—Dr. Charles E. West, of Brooklyn, and Professor Oliver Payson Hubbard, of Manhattan. Both were distinguished teachers. Dr. West was born in Washington, Mass., in 1809, and after being graduated from Union College, began his career as a teacher in the Albany Female Academy. He was afterward principal of the Rutgers Female Institute, the Buffalo Female Seminary, and the Brooklyn Heights Seminary, where he remained twenty-nine years. He also assisted in preparing the original courses of instruction of Vassar Female College. He was one of the founders of the Long Island Historical Society; was a fellow of the Royal Antiquarian Society of Denmark; and was a member of the American Ethnological, the American Philosophical, and the New York and the Long Island Historical Societies. Professor Hubbard was born at Pomfret, Conn., in 1809, was graduated from Yale College in 1828, and was appointed Professor of Chemistry, Pharmacy, and Mineralogy at Dartmouth College in 1836. He remained there, with an interval, from 1866 till 1871, in which he devoted himself to lecturing, till 1883, when he became professor emeritus. He was made in 1871 overseer of the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth, and he was a member of the New Hampshire Legislature in 1863 and 1864. Only four of the founders of the American Association are now living—namely, Dr. Martin H. Boye, of Cooperstown, Pa.; Prof. Walcott Gibbs, of Harvard; Dr. Samuel L. Abbot; and Epes Dixwell.

The firm of Burroughs, Wellcome & Co., says the Lancet, are to be congratulated on the generous care which they have taken to promote the material and intellectual welfare of their employees. Their principal works are at Dartford, where they employ more than eight hundred persons of both sexes, including some two hundred scientific workers. For the purpose of establishing a sort of club for these employees, Mr. Wellcome succeeded in purchasing the Manor House known as Acacia Hall, and the extensive and beautiful grounds in which it is situated. The Manor House he has fitted up as a club for the members of his staff. An old mill which stands close by has been converted into what is called the library building. The upper floor is fitted out as a lecture room, and there is a library which already contains some thousands of volumes. A third building, called the Tower House, contains club accommodations for men. Then there are elaborate bathrooms, and finally a large gymnasium. The grounds are most extensive, being half a mile in length and very tastefully laid out. There is a lake, a river, and many pleasure boats for rowing, a large field for sports of all sorts, a grand stand to witness the same, a rich orchard and a beautiful pleasure garden, several luxurious lawns, and many superb trees.

A peculiar kind of glassy bodies, known as moldavite or bouteillenstein, is attracting the attention of Austrian and Bohemian geologists. These glasses are ovals from an inch to an inch and a half long, and are characterized by various markings, some of which suggest finger impressions, while others form a network of furrows, which may have in part a rough radial arrangement. They have been regarded by some authors as relics of prehistoric glass manufacture, but this view does not appear to have been sustained. Dr. F. E. Suess, the famous Austrian geologist, finds resemblances between them and meteorites, and the most general disposition of students of the subject is now to consider them of extra-terrestrial origin. Resemblances have further been pointed out between them and some peculiar obsidian bombs found in Australia. The moldavites in Bohemia occur in sandy deposits which are assigned to the late Tertiary or early Diluvial period.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, besides studies bearing directly on science and the arts, courses are given in modern languages, as an important means of access to foreign works in the student's professional department: English, for the purpose of training pupils to express themselves readily, accurately, and adequately, and of aiding them in the understanding and appreciation of good literature; history and political and social science, the instruction in which is arranged to connect with that in biology, so that the two departments shall present "an unbroken sequence of related studies extending through three successive years, and resting upon the fundamental knowledge of living forms and of prehistoric man that is presented in general biology, zoölogy, and anthropology," followed by comparative politics and international law; and economics.

A witness recently admitted to the British Government's Committee now making inquiry into the use of coloring matters and preservatives in food, that yellow coloring substances were largely purchased without any discrimination for the purpose of giving a rich appearance to milk and milk products. As a rule, no question was asked as to the injurious or non-injurious character of the dye so used. One of the best coloring matters was known as Martius's yellow, naphthol yellow, naphthalene yellow, Manchester yellow, saffron yellow, or golden yellow, and is chemically the same as the dinitroalpha-naphthol prepared from the naphthalene that crystallizes in gas mains, which is an important constituent in the making of lyddite. It is slightly explosive when heated, is injurious when it comes in contact with an abrasion of the skin, and has been shown by physiological experiments to be a highly improper substance to mix with food.

A goose market is held regularly in October at Warsaw, Poland, to which about three million geese are brought, most of them to be exported to Germany. Often coming from remote provinces, many of these geese have to travel over long distances, upon roads which would wear out their feet if they were not "shod." For this purpose they are driven first through tar poured upon the ground, and then through sand. After the operation has been repeated several times the feet of the geese become covered with a hard crust that effectively protects them.