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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 6/December 1874/Literary Notices

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 6‎ | December 1874

LITERARY NOTICES.

The Physiology of Man: Designed to represent the Existing State of Physiological Science, as applied to the Functions of the Human Body. By Austin Flint, Jr., M.D. In Five Volumes. Volume V. Special Senses; Generation. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 517 pages. Price, $4.50.

The fifth and concluding volume of Dr. Flint's comprehensive work on physiology is now published, and we congratulate the author upon the completion of his task and the success of its execution. We gave a brief account of the general object of the work, in noticing a previous volume, and have only now to say that the concluding book of the series not only sustains, but surpasses, the high character won by its predecessors, while the whole work—the product of eleven years' labor—is an honor to its author and a credit to the science of the country.

The literary merit of these volumes, we think, deserves especial recognition; that is, their style is admirably adapted to its purpose of conveying clear impressions to the reader with a minimum of effort on his part. To the general reader, there is necessarily a certain amount of hindrance from the use of the unfamiliar terms of the science; but, in no first-class work upon the subject, that we remember, is there so little embarrassment on this score as in that of Dr. Flint. In his style he has attained the excellence of a lucid simplicity, one of the perfections of art which is the more remarkable, as, being a laborious experimental physiologist, busy firstly and mainly with his science, he cannot have had much time to spare for literary discipline. It is a general fault with our scientists, that they too much neglect literary cultivation, and break down in the arts of statement; Dr. Flint is not open to this criticism. Hence, while his work will have an increasing value for physiological students, it has also peculiar claims on non-professional readers who may care to consult an elaborate treatise upon the subject.

In regard to the original character of the work, and its claims as a whole fairly to represent the present state of the science, the author says, in his preface:

"In the preparation of this work, the author has formed his opinions, to a great extent, from the results of direct observation and experiment, as the true basis of what is positively known in physiology; and, while the earlier volumes might be modified by the addition of new facts, they contain comparatively little that has been disproved by recent investigations. Experimental observations have been studied and criticised from a practical point of view; and in this the author's training, as an experimentalist and a public teacher for more than fifteen years, has given him a certain degree of confidence. It is the practical physiologist who is best qualified to judge of the correctness of physiological experiments, and of the accuracy of methods of investigation; and the author has learned, from his own attempts at original observation, to estimate the difficulties of direct research, and to appreciate the inaccuracies into which careless, inexperienced, or over-enthusiastic workers are liable to fall."

Evolution and Progress: An Exposition and Defense. The Foundation of Evolution philosophically expounded, and its Arguments succinctly stated. By Rev. William I. Gill, A. M. New York: Authors' Publishing Company, 30 Bond Street. 295 pages. Price, $1.50.

This little volume has some striking characteristics which take us somewhat by surprise. It is a prize essay of the Authors' Publishing Company, and a thoroughgoing defense of the doctrine of Evolution by a working orthodox clergyman. Its dedication is significant of the progress of catholic views, such as we hardly expected to see in this generation: "To Herbert Spencer, Esquire, and the great brotherhood of evangelical divines, the author dedicates 'Evolution and Progress,' in token that the full complement of truth must ensphere all the antipodes of thought." The volume is mainly a discussion of the principle of Evolution in its highest philosophical aspects, and the argument is conducted in the most interesting manner, by taking up the objections of its leading opponents, as Dawson, Winchell, and Bowne, and its quasi opponents, as Dr. Carpenter and Prof. Le Conte. The author writes from his point of view as a clergyman, not in the narrow professional sense, but as an uncompromising devotee of truth in its unity and completeness. He has his own views, and, while accepting Evolution in its broadest sense, and shrinking from none of its consequences, he yet holds it to be but a part of a larger order of philosophy yet to be worked out. In his preface, he says:

"For himself, the writer cares very little for Evolution as an ultimate system of philosophy. We think its method, so far as it goes, is philosophical, its arguments sound and logical, and its conclusions invulnerable against any thing that has yet been brought to bear against them. But we want, however, to go farther and get something broader and more profound—something that leaves intact what Evolution has disclosed, but finds it a place in a larger scheme, and ennobles it by the new and higher relations into which it is thus brought. But incomprehensive and uncomprehending dogmatism, whether for or against Evolution (for it belongs to both sides), stands in the way, and demands that progress shall be in a circle. But it is orthodox dogmatism which, on this subject, is most obstructive of progress; and it therefore requires to be startled, if not stunned, into the perception of its philosophically defenseless and helpless condition, so as to make it see a new light, and accept the offer of more effective weapons. Kant confessed that the skepticism of Hume broke the dogmatic slumbers which he was indulging on the iron bed of the Leibnitzo-Wolfian philosophy, and thus quickened the world afresh into thought. Evolution is surely destined to perform the same office more healthfully for the complacent slumberers of this age, whether physical, metaphysical, or theological slumberers. To make a small contribution toward this result, is the object of this monograph.

"There are many who are crying, 'Peace, peace!' where there is no peace; and they are healing their theological hurt slightly—daubing with untempered mortar. They bless their superannuated philosophy with the wild belief that Evolution is becoming exhausted—going off into a decline, and that it will soon die of inanition. On the contrary, it is like the mountain-stream, making fresh acquisitions, and increasing in strength and volume as it rolls; and must continue so to do till it is lost in the ocean. Evolution is now made the foundation of religious rationalism in England and America; and the best foundation it has ever had—one which can easily be exhibited to the common people; and the 'liberal' pulpit is becoming fervent and attractive in its efforts to show how the Gospel can be and should be accommodated to Spencerianism, and how this system furnishes the best philosophy of religion. Practically, therefore, it is not to be ignored and pooh-poohed, or treated with indifference by the evangelicals, as some of them affect to do. Never was thought so active as it is to-day, and never was there so large a number of great and cultured and eminently virtuous and dispassionate minds who doubt or disbelieve the existence of a personal Deity. Whither are these facts pointing?"

The author thus explains the origin of his work:

"This book was at first designed only as a brief essay, as a private discussion with a friend, and it originated as follows: Conversing with Prof. B., of —— Theological Seminary, I asserted that the orthodox do not understand their opponents, that in the present state of philosophy Evolution can be rigidly maintained and triumphantly vindicated against all the assaults of Theism, and that the latter will have to adopt an entirely new method of defense and attack; and, as the professor disputed this, I promised to prove it in a short article, which now turns out to be a book. The object, therefore, of this volume is complex—first, to show to the orthodox that they stand on slippery places, that their philosophy and logic can afford them no legitimate aid and comfort; second, to show to the quasi-evolutionists that there is no medium between atheism, or non-theism, and the rejection of their own principles of science and philosophy; third, to show to the thorough naturalistic evolutionists that there is at least one man among the orthodox who thoroughly understands them—knows them better even than they know themselves—and who grants them all their principles, better expounded, and admits their legitimate consequences; and, fourth, that therefore the author must accept not only these principles, but also these consequences, unless he can furnish a new philosophy which shall use these acknowledged principles in combination with others, and thus attain other, or, rather, higher results. This the author believes to be possible, and that he is called to attempt it."

In conclusion, Mr. Gill says:

"We by no means consider the doctrine of Evolution, even in the most advanced philosophical state in which it has been presented, to be an all-comprehending philosophical ultimatum. We hold that it is just in its conclusions from its premises, and that its premises are indisputable. But there are broader and profounder truths yet undeveloped, which are partially and falsely discerned, and ignored or rejected; truths which, when fully expounded in their legitimate connections, will show that Evolution, instead of being the ultimate philosophy of the universe as it now appears, is infinitely subordinate; and these truths will introduce and demonstrate an infinitely sublimer theory, which will comprise Evolution as a vast temple comprises each cf its most miniature figures, or as the material universe comprises each of its countless atoms.

"The theory of Evolution contains a body of facts, of deductions, of inductions, and of generalizations, so irrefragably true that, though they may be subsequently covered by further discoveries of facts and by deductions and inferences and broader generalizations, they cannot be overthrown; or, in other words, they may be absorbed, but cannot be refuted. We propose to cover and absorb them....

"The absolute unity of the known universe is no longer to be questioned, and as now conceived it precludes a personal Deity and our personal immortality. Now the great problem is: Can we expound this unity so as to prove a personal Deity and our personal immortality? With emphasis I answer—Yes."

Animal Mechanism. A Treatise on Terrestrial and Aërial Locomotion. By E. J. Marey, Professor of the College of France. Profusely illustrated. 283 pages. Price $1.75. D. Appleton & Co. No. XI. International Scientific Series.

The author of the present work, it is well known, stands at the head of those physiologists who have investigated the mechanism of animal dynamics; indeed, we may almost say that he has made the subject his own. By the originality of his conceptions, the ingenuity of his constructions, the skill of his analysis, and the perseverance of his investigations, he has surpassed all others in the power of unraveling the complex and intricate movements of animated beings. We last month gave an exemplification of his method in the case of human locomotion, and in the present number of the Monthly we continue the subject by briefly showing his mode of studying the various paces of the horse. The volume deals systematically and thoroughly with this whole subject, and is full of novelty and curious interest. Prof. Marey's elucidation of the mechanism of flight in birds and insects is one of the most exquisite pieces of experimental investigation that modern science affords. The fertility of his devices, by which the varied results are brought out in all their exactness to the eye, by the graphic method of illustration, is a source of constant surprise to the reader. He makes pictures of all his facts and laws. Of course the value of such investigations stands upon their own scientific merits, but they have a peculiar attractiveness as connected with the phenomena of life in which we are all concerned. Yet there can be no greater mistake than to suppose that such researches are destitute of practical utility. Upon this point Prof. Marey has the following excellent remarks in his introduction:

"The comparison of animals with machines is not only legitimate, it is also extremely useful from different points of view. It furnishes a valuable means of making the mechanical phenomena which occur in living beings understood, by placing them beside the similar but less generally known phenomena which are evident in the action of ordinary machines. In the course of this book, we shall frequently borrow from pure mechanics the synthetical demonstrations of the phenomena of animal life. The mechanician, in his turn, may derive useful notions from the study of Nature, which will often show him how the most complicated problems may be solved with admirable simplicity.

"It is easy to demonstrate the importance of such a subject as locomotion, which, under its different forms, terrestrial, aquatic, and aerial, has constantly excited interest. Whether man has endeavored to utilize to the utmost his own motive power, and that of the animals; whether he has sought to extend his domain, to open a way for himself in the seas, or rise into the air, it is always from Nature that he has drawn his inspirations. We may hope that a deeper knowledge of the different modes of animal locomotion will be a point of departure for fresh investigations, whence further progress will result.

"Every scientific research has a powerful attraction in itself; the hope of reaching truth suffices to sustain those who pursue it, through all their efforts; the contemplation of the laws of Nature has been a great and noble source of enjoyment to those who have discovered them. But to humanity, science is only the means, progress is the aim. If we can show that a study may lead to some useful application, we may induce many to pursue it, who would otherwise merely follow it from afar, with the interest of curiosity only. Without pretending to recapitulate here all that has been gained by the study of Nature, we shall endeavor to set forth what may be gained by studying it still further, and with more care.

"If we knew under what conditions the maximum of speed, force, or labor, which the living being can furnish, may be obtained, it would put an end to much discussion, and a great deal of conjecture, which is to be regretted. A generation of men would not be condemned to certain military exercises which will be hereafter rejected as useless and ridiculous. One country would not crush its soldiers under an enormous load, while another considers that the best plan is to give them nothing to carry. We should know exactly at what pace an animal does the best service, whether he be required for speed, or for drawing loads; and we should know what are the conditions of draught best adapted to the utilization of the strength of animals.

"It is in this sense that progress is being made; but, if we complain with reason of its slow advance, we must only blame our imperfect notion of the mechanism of locomotion. Let this study be perfected, and then useful applications of it will soon ensue.

"Man has been manifestly inspired by Nature in the construction of the machinery of navigation. If the hull of the ship is, as it has been justly described, formed on the model of the aquatic fowl, if the sail has been copied from the wing of the swan inflated by the wind, and the oar from its webbed foot as it strikes the water, these are but a small part of Nature's loans to art. More than two hundred years ago, Borelly, studying the stability and displacement of fish, traced the plan of a divingship constructed upon the same principle as the formidable monitors which made their appearance in the recent American war.

"Aërial locomotion has always excited the strongest curiosity among mankind. How frequently has the question been raised, whether man must always continue to envy the bird and the insect their wings; whether he, too, may not one day travel through the air, as he now sails across the ocean! Authorities in science have declared at different periods, as the result of lengthy calculations, that this is a chimerical dream; but how many inventions have we seen realized which have also been pronounced impossible! The truth is, that all intervention by mathematics is premature, so long as the study of Nature and experiment have not furnished the precise data which alone can serve as a sound starting-point for calculations of this kind."

The Maintenance of Health. By J. Milner Fothergill, M. D. London: Smith, Elder & Co. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 399 pp. 8vo. Price, $5.00.

This is a useful work on hygiene, and, as all intelligent hygienic action must be based upon some knowledge of the human subject, it opens with a description, in outline, of the composition of the body, of its various organs, the functions they perform, and the relations of food, exercise, and sleep. Then follows a consideration, in the natural order, of youth, maturity, and old age, with the dangers incident to each, and the precautions necessary.

In treating of the first stage, allusion is made to a danger little known and less heeded by people in general: this is, the effect upon children of violent outbursts of anger in parents and nurses. The young wife, by yielding to anger under the trials of her newly-assumed position, may doom her unborn babe to an imbecile existence. "The majority of imbeciles are first-born children, and their pitiful condition is the consequence of the mental perturbations during the term of pregnancy." Again: "In sucklings, too, mental disturbance in the mother or wet-nurse will commonly produce indigestion and diarrhœa in the baby." Nor does the danger end with infancy. Nearly every one has observed the deplorable influence which capricious paternal anger exercises upon children, some being made gloomy and morose thereby, others stubborn and revengeful. In connection with children advanced beyond the period of infancy, the author deplores the aversion, which they at the present day display, to eating fat, and recommends that parents should persistently endeavor to counteract it. He says: "Fat is most necessary to the proper growth of tissues, and, such being the case, is still more necessary to children." Without it, children grow up lean and spare.

The consideration of the causes of diseases in maturity is worthy of special attention. One of the most subtile of these causes, because little thought of, is the decay of the teeth. This is said to be on the increase, and is mainly attributed to excessive consumption of sugar, and the use of dentifrices. "Many dentifrices contain an acid which, by constantly eating away a thin surface of the enamel, keeps the teeth brilliantly white, but in time leads to their utter destruction."

Certain silly young ladies, who resort to the drinking of vinegar or the eating of raw rice, to avoid growing fat and florid, will be edified to learn that the amount of vinegar which will make them thin will destroy their digestive powers, and that a similar quantity of rice will produce habitual constipation, and prevent the assimilation of food.

In advanced life, many persons suffer much from inability to sleep. Moderate exercise during the day, and, at night, beds warmed before retiring, are recommended as the best remedies. In obstinate cases, a little alcoholic stimulant, mixed with warm water, may be taken to advantage just after entering bed. An important chapter is devoted to food and clothes, and another to stimulants and tobacco. The recent classification of alcohol as a food is adopted, and its use in small quantities considered harmless; in certain cases beneficial. Tobacco is also considered harmless in moderate quantities.

The chapter on mental strain, overwork, and tension, deserves a careful perusal. Men unfamiliar with the symptoms of an approaching breakdown of their mental powers, frequently work on blindly until comes the fall from which no power can lift them. Sleeplessness is one of the most significant warnings, and should never pass unheeded. In this connection, the author's remarks on the use of chloral hydrate, as an agent for promoting sleep, serve as a timely warning against that deadly remedy. Its action on the nerve-centres is destructive, and it produces a permanent condition of brain-bloodlessness fatal to mental vigor. Hygiene is the subject of an able discussion. The book will, unquestionably, prove of great value to those who read it carefully. It is not, however, intended as a family prescription-book, but as a safeguard against disease. In every case of actual sickness, it advises that the family physician be sent for.

Cave-Hunting: Researches on the Evidence of Caves respecting the Early Inhabitants of Europe. By W. Boyd Dawkins, M. A., F. R. S., etc. London: Macmillan & Co. 455 pp. 8vo. Price, $7.00.

The prefatorial remarks of the author announce that this book is a faint outline of a new and vast field of research, intended to give prominence to the more important points, rather than a finished and detailed history of cave-exploration.

Caves have in all ages, and in all countries, been regarded with feelings of superstitious veneration; here, as the dwelling-places of the sibyls and nymphs, there, as the shrines of Pan, Bacchus, Pluto, the seat of the oracles of Delphi and Mount Cythæron, and in the far East they were connected with the mysterious worship of Mithras. These feelings long secured them from intrusion and exploration. At length, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, they were thrown open for examination by the desire which then arose in Germany to possess the "ebur fossile" or "unicorn's horn," a supposed infallible specific for the cure of many diseases. The "unicorn's horn" was to be found in the caves, and the search for it revealed the remains of lions, hyenas, elephants, and many other tropical or strange animals. At first these remains were supposed to have been washed thither from the tropics by the Deluge. Then the truth began to dawn that the animals lived in the surrounding country, and that the bones of such as were not cave-haunting were dragged into the caves by such as were. This truth was first enunciated by Rosenmüller in 1804. Between 1825 and 1841, an Englishman, the Rev. J. McEnery, discovered in Kent's Hole, near Torquay, the first "flint implements" ever observed, in a cave along with the bones of extinct animals, and he suggested that they proved the existence of man at the same time with those animals. But he died in 1841, leaving his suggestion scornfully repudiated by the scientific world; although, in 1840, Mr. Godwin Austin, by independent researches, verified its truth. It was not until after 1859 that the significance of this discovery came to be generally perceived and admitted. It, of course, immediately revolutionized the prevailing notions of the antiquity of man, while the previously-accepted theory of Rosenmüller unmistakably indicated the occurrence of remarkable geographical and climatal changes over the continent of Europe. The work before us traces the rise and progress of cave-exploration; considers the physical history of caves, that is, their formation, whether by sea or volcanic action; enumerates the most remarkable caves, with the objects they have yielded; treats of the character of the early inhabitants of Europe, and of the fauna of the same period, as indicated by the remains discovered; and, finally, of the climatal and geographical changes that have occurred since those deposits were made. The style is clear and vigorous, and the text is interspersed with numerous illustrations. The work will commend itself to all who have a desire to know something of what humanity was in that hazy period which stretches backward of the earliest records.

Lecture Notes on Qualitative Analysis. By Henry B. Hill, A. M. (Assistant Professor of Chemistry in Harvard College). New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 54 pp., 12mo. Price, 75 cts.

This little book is designed for the use of the chemical student. Explanatory of its object, the author says, in his preface, that, during lectures, the student being under the necessity of taking notes, is often prevented from seeing what takes place on the lecture-table. The book is intended to give concisely the facts essential to intelligent work in the laboratory, that the student may have more leisure for observation in the lecture-room. The work shows the divisions of the bases and the acids into groups, as well as the means of detecting them; also directions for the examination of specimens, the reactions of various substances under different circumstances, and the method of treating them with water and with acids.

Deutsche Rundschau. Herausgegaben von Julius Rodenberg. Monthly. 810 per annum.

This is the first number of a Review, intended to occupy, in German periodical literature, about the same rank that is held by the Revue des Deux Mondes in the periodical literature of France. Like its French prototype, it will contain novelettes and continued stories, historical sketches, political articles, scientific essays, poems, etc., together with book reviews, criticisms of music and the drama, and political notes. The scientific article in the present number is entitled "Botanical Problems," and is written by Prof. Ferd. Cohn, of Breslau. Stechert & Wolff, 4 Bond Street, New York, receive subscriptions for the Deutsche Rundschau in the United States.

 

 
PUBLICATIONS RECEIVED.

Lecture Notes on Quantitative Analysis (Hill). New York: Putnam's Sons. Pp. 64. Price, 75 cents.

Operation for Cataract (Jeffries). Pp. 15.

Insanity and Disease (Tourtellot). Pp. 15.

Catalogue of Plants (Wheeler's Expedition, 1871-'72-'73).

Ornithological Specimens (Wheeler's Expedition, 1871-'72-'73).

Archives of Dermatology (Quarterly). Putnam's Sons. Pp. 96. Three dollars per annum.

American Journal of Insanity (Quarterly). Utica, N. Y.: State Lunatic Asylum. Five dollars per annum.