Popular Science Monthly/Volume 59/May 1901/Scientific Literature

Scientific Literature.

Thanks to such writers as Spencer, Stephen and Sutherland, we have been long familiar with ethics treated from a scientific standpoint. Yet the science of ethics, as pursued by these thinkers, betrayed one evident defect—it proceeded by analogy from the physical sciences. In the new work, entitled 'Ethics, Descriptive and Explanatory' (Macmillan), by Professor Mezes, of the University of Texas, an effort is made to remove this reproach. His aim "is to give as adequate critical and methodical an account as possible of what morality and immorality are . . . to construct a positive or purely scientific theory of Ethics, and to give a naturalistic account of all the aspects of morality and immorality." Mr. Mezes does not forget that this is a vast undertaking, one not to be compassed within the limits of a text-book such as this professes to be. But, remembering these restrictions. Me may say that he has produced an excellent work; indeed, so excellent, that it were well worth his while to consider whether it might not be wise for him to view it as the prospectus of a far more ambitious undertaking, in which some, if not all, the major problems could be wrought out with fullness. The plan pursued by Mr. Mezes is as follows: In the Introduction, he defines ethics, shows its scope and method, and distinguishes between moral and non-moral phenomena. The body of the book consists of two parts, the first dealing with subjective morality and the individual conscience; the second discussing objective morality, and embracing, among other inquiries, an admirable analysis of justice. A conclusion treats the nature and value of morality. As the work is undoubtedly of considerable importance, several interesting features deserve mention. Mr. Mezes is thoroughly objective in his method, and so approaches, within his chosen sphere, the standpoint which a biologist might occupy in his. Significant in this connection is his shrewd suggestion that ethics is not to be treated as a teleological science till you come to the end of it. He is to be commended greatly, further, for the even-handed way in which he grapples with the ticklish questions of conscience and the like. He shows clearly that Moralitat, while by no means of the importance assigned it by the traditional English and theological moralists, cannot be overlooked. In particular, he contrives to put the results of psychological research to good use in his analysis. This is one of several pleasing and hopeful features. Similarly, in this connection, he rids himself of the time-honored static conception of conscience, and, by adopting a dynamic theory, actually vindicates a concrete place in moral life for this hoary abstraction. So, too, when he passes to objective morality (Sittlichkeit), and makes contact with the cardinal virtues. Under his sober hand, these cease to be vague entities floating in mid-air, and come to take their places as vital results of objective morality—results shot out, as it were, by the interaction of man with man. The chapter on justice deserves to rank with the best discussions of the subject. Mr. Mezes, in short, has managed to free himself from many of the stultifications that have beset scientific moralists in the past. Whether he has emancipated himself from all need not be discussed now. It is sufficient to note that he has produced a fresh, suggestive and most careful work; that he has adopted and held fast to a scientific standpoint in ethics—not in biology or psychology or any other science, and that, therefore, he has advanced the cause of objective research in this most baffling field. A few books of this character and the present inextricable tangle in ethical theory might be in a fair way toward ravelling up.


Dr. D. H. Scott has rewritten a series of lectures given at the University College, London, 1896, and published them under the title of 'Studies in Fossil Botany' (A. & C. Black). This book will be a most useful one to the botanist, since it presupposes no knowledge of paleontology', and discusses only the portions of a subject of major importance to the student of plants. A perusal of this work will impress the reader with the enormous amount of light thrown on the natural affinities of plants by the results of paleobotanical investigations during the last ten or twelve years.

'Elements de paleobotanique' (Carré & Naud), by R. Zeiller, is a comprehensive text-book, in which the entire subject receives a thorough and systematic treatment. The preservation of fossils, classification and nomenclature, systematic examination of the principal types of fossil vegetation, floral succession, climate, etc., are among the principal topics taken up at length. The bibliographic list in the appendix covers eighteen pages and is inclusive of the greater number of important titles.

Professor Percival, of Southeastern Agricultural College, Kent, England, has written a text-book of 'Agricultural Botany' (Duckworth & Co.), which will meet the needs of students interested in plants from a cultural point of view more nearly than any similar textbook hitherto published. The eight chief divisions of the book are concerned with the general external morphology of the plant, internal morphology, physiology, classification, and special botany of farm crops, weeds, farm seeds and fungi, considered chiefly in relation to some of the common diseases of plants and bacteria. The matter is arranged in two portions; a didactic discussion of the principles of the subject, which has been kept as free as might be from technicalities, and a series of demonstrations and experiments, by which all the more important points are actually seen in the plant. The point of view throughout the entire book is entirely different from that of the lecturer on pure botany, and the perspective of the entire subject is rearranged to meet the new conditions. It is impossible, of course, that all the more important recent discoveries, even in such a basal portion of the work as the nutrition of plants, should be put into practise immediately, but it is to be said that Professor Percival's book is fairly abreast of the times, although adhering to some anachronisms. The introduction and use of the book in America would be followed by a notable improvement of the instruction in botany in most agricultural schools.

'The New Forestry' (Pawson & Brailsford, Sheffield), by Mr. John Simpson, is a manual adapted to British woodlands and game preservation. One chapter is devoted to the management of a woodland as a place for sheltering and rearing pheasants and other game birds and animals. The remaining chapters are devoted to practical directions as to rotation, allotment, cultural methods and general administration of forests, with a consideration of the numerous factors that must be taken into account in forestry operations on an English estate. The practical value of the book is enhanced by estimates of expenses and selling values.


The report on the 'Progress of the Beet-Sugar Industry in the United States in 1899 presents a very hopeful outlook for the success of this industry over a quite wide range of territory. The report was prepared by the Department of Agriculture on the basis of extensive observations in the field and at beet-sugar factories, and chemical examination of beets grown at a large number of places in forty-one States and Territories. Experiments to determine the regions best adapted to profitable beet culture have been in progress for several years past, and in connection with similar work conducted by the State experiment stations, have in large measure settled this question. On the basis of the results, over 30 beet-sugar factories have been established and are in successful operation. A number of others are now building, and still others are in contemplation, if contracts can be made with farmers for growing the beets. California has eight factories, including the largest factory in the world, with a capacity for working 3,000 tons of sugar beets per day, which is an indication of the energy with which this new industry is starting in America. It was expected that 35,000 acres of beets would be grown for this factory in 1900. Nine factories were in operation in Michigan, where for several reasons the conditions are considered particularly favorable to the industry, and the greatest interest has been manifested in its development. An interesting feature of the factory at Lehi, Utah, is the establishment of a slicing station or subfactory at a point thirty miles away, where the juice is extracted from the beets, limed and piped to the main factory. Another subfactory in an opposite direction is planned, increasing the capacity of the combined plant to 1.200 tons of beets a day. This plan of having 'slicing stations' connected with the main factory by pipe lines is a novel one, and is believed to be a distinct advancement. It saves expense in hauling the beets and brings a larger radius of farming country into close contact with the sugar factory. The factory at Carlsbad, New Mexico, is said to be the only factory in the world where sugar beets are grown entirely with irrigation. Its demonstration of the feasibility of this is considered a valuable lesson for the arid regions. The average cost of raising an acre of sugar beets, under conditions similar to those in Iowa, for example, is given as $30, and the yield at from twelve to fifteen tons, although under extraordinary conditions it may reach twenty-five tons. The price paid for beets by the factories depends in many cases on the sugar content, but averages about $4 to $4.50 per ton. In many localities where the conditions are favorable it has been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the farmer that a larger profit can be realized from growing sugar beets than any other crop, and in addition the land is improved by the superior cultivation given this crop. Furthermore, the value of the extracted sugar-beet pulp as a feeding stuff for animals is urged as an additional advantage to the agriculture in the vicinity of beet-sugar factories, which is being appreciated. This pulp is usually given away for the hauling, but in some cases the factories themselves have erected feeding pens, where large numbers of cattle and sheep have been fattened. Time and effort have been required to induce farmers to take up the growing of beets on account of the large amount of labor and the expense involved, and many expensive lessons have had to be learned in the operation of factories; but the industry is now believed to be well on its feet, with a good prospect of steady growth.