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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 66/December 1904/Shorter Articles and Discussion

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 66‎ | December 1904



To the Editor: I enclose a photograph which represents an interesting human document. In the years from 1814 to 1825 Johann Rapp was leader and prophet of the religious sect of Harmonists located on the Wabash River, at New Harmony, Indiana. In 1825, the property of this community was purchased by the colony founded by Robert Owen and William Maclure, and the Harmonists under Rapp removed to their new home at Economy, Pennsylvania.

In both locations the community was financially very successful, while their more enlightened successors scattered in dissension within two years. The success of the community under Rapp's guidance was due to the fact that it was an absolute tyranny, theocratic in its claims, and that all farming and business operations were directed absolutely by one mind.

PSM V66 D191 The angel stone of the rapp community.png
The Angel Stone of the Rapp Community at New Harmony, Now in the Museum of Indiana University.

Rapp had a way of miraculously appearing in the harvest field and in similar places, seemingly springing out of the ground. This he did literally, for it is said his successors found a number of tunnels leading from his house outward and opening in unsuspected places. Among other forms of divine guidance, Rapp had a visit each morning from an angel, who came barefooted and stood before him on a large stone, giving him direction for the affairs of the day. This stone is still preserved. It was presented to the Museum of the University of Indiana by the late Professor Richard Owen, son of Robert Owen of Lanark, the founder of the second colony of New Harmony. This stone in Rapp's time showed clearly the prints of the angel's feet, and these, a little worn, are represented on the stone as it is preserved to-day. 1 owe the accompanying photograph of this stone to the courtesy of Professor Carl H. Eigenmann.

The stone suggests the sole condition under which communistic or socialistic organizations have been economically successful—that of complete subordination of the individual wills to the will of some one individual supposed to have mystic power or a divine commission.

David Starr Jordan.



To the Editor: Apropos of the papers which have recently appeared in the Popular Science Monthly and elsewhere dealing with the frequency distribution of word and sentence lengths in the writings of various authors, the following extract from a letter written by Professor De Morgan in 1851 is, I think, of some interest. The letter from which the extract is taken was written to the Rev. W. Heald, and is dated August 18, 1851. It is printed in the 'Memoir of Augustus De Morgan,' edited by his wife, Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan (pp. 214-216). After dealing with sundry other matters the letter proceeds in this way: "I wish you would do this: run your eye over any part of those of St. Paul's Epistles which begin with παυλος—the Greek, I mean—and without paying any attention to the meaning. Then do the same with the Epistle to the Hebrews, and try to balance in your own mind the question whether the latter does not deal in longer words than the former. It has always run in my head that a little expenditure of money would settle questions of authorship in this way. The best mode of explaining what I would try will be to put down the results I should expect as if I had tried them.

"Count a large number of words in Herodotus—say all the first book—and count all the letters; divide the second numbers by the first, giving the average number of letters to a word in that book.

"Do the same with the second book. I should expect a very close approximation. If Book I gave 5.624 letters per word, it would not surprise me if Book II gave 5.619. I judge by other things.

"But I should not wonder if the same result applied to two books of Thucydides gave, say, 5.713 and 5.728. That is to say, I should expect the slight differences between one writer and another to be well maintained against each other, and very well agreeing with themselves. If this fact were established there, if St. Paul's Epistles which begin with παυλος gave 5.428 and the Hebrews gave 5.516, for instance, I should feel quite sure that the Greek of the Hebrews (passing no verdict on whether Paul wrote in Hebrew and another translated) was not from the pen of Paul.

"If scholars knew the law of averages as well as mathematicians, it would be easy to raise a few hundred pounds to try this experiment on a grand scale. I would have Greek, Latin and English tried, and I should expect to find that one man writing on two different subjects agrees more nearly with himself than two different men writing on the same subject. Some of these days spurious writings will be detected by this test. Mind, I told you so. With kind regards to all your family, I remain, dear Heald,

Comment regarding this remarkable anticipation of supposedly very modern ideas seems superfluous.

Raymond Pearl.