Popular Science Monthly/Volume 8/February 1876/Miscellany
Relations of Chemistry to Pharmacy and Therapeutics.—We present herewith the main points of an instructive address delivered by Dr. T. Sterry Hunt before the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, on "The Relations of Chemistry to Pharmacy and Therapeutics."
With the eighteenth century is connected the birth of modern chemistry; and, while Priestley and Lavoisier are honored as having given a new impulsion to chemical theory, the Swedish apothecary Scheele will always be remembered as one who probably enriched the science with more discoveries than either of them. The three brightest names on the roll of great chemists in our century have been gathered from the ranks of the pharmaceutical profession, viz., Davy, Liebig, and Dumas. But the debt owed by chemistry to pharmacy has been amply repaid: the labors of the chemist have transformed the pharmaceutical art, replacing empiricism by science, enriching the materia medica with a vast number of new substances, and introducing new processes. Such old-fashioned drugs as coral, egg-shells, and the like, were shown by the chemist to possess no other value than belongs to the calcareous salts of which they are chiefly composed. Iodine was shown to be the active principle in the drug, calcined sponge; and henceforth iodine takes the place of the crude and bulky residue from the burning of sponge. In like manner quinine and morphine replaced cinchona-bark and opium.
In cases where the medicinal virtues are not apparently lodged in a single principle capable of being isolated, pharmacy has recourse to other processes, and obtains by expression, percolation, and evaporation, or distillation, often in vacuo, concentrated extracts which enable us to dispense with the crude drugs. Thus, for a rough example, by means of the sulphide of carbon the subtile perfumes of the violet and jasmine have been isolated. The artificial formation of urea and valerianic and benzoic acids opened up a new field for chemistry and pharmacy. By a careful dissection, as it were, of certain organic principles, we have learned to reconstruct them; and the triumphs of this method are seen in the artificial production of indigo, orcine and alizarine, and the odorant principle of vanilla. What wonder, then, that the chemist should now aspire to produce, artificially, the active principles of the poppy and cinchona, and render cheaper those precious drugs, morphine and quinine? These problems are destined to be solved at no distant day.
The history of anæsthetics is next traced by the author from the discovery of the physiological action of nitrous oxide by Davy to that of chloral by Liebreich. From this he passes to the subject of the chemical changes undergone by drugs in the animal economy, and the relations of these changes to physiological action. The mineral salts of many of the metals, such as sulphates and chlorides, act, to a great extent, like foreign substances when taken into the stomach, forming insoluble compounds with albuminous matters; but, when combined with certain organic acids, these metals are in a condition favorable to absorption. Thus, it is that the citrates, tartrates, and lactates of bismuth, antimony, iron, etc., are now advantageously employed in medical practice.
It having occurred to a chemist that salicylic acid might be antiseptic like carbolic acid, he made experiments which resulted in showing that in this almost tasteless body we possess an antiseptic agent of great power.
The immense advance made in the pharmaceutical art and the constant contributions brought to it by chemistry demand each year a higher education for the profession of pharmacy, and the day cannot be far distant when the need of a regular training and a thorough scientific education will be held to be as indispensable for the pharmacist as for the physician and the surgeon,
Haeckel on Scientific Institutions.—In his latest book ("Ziele und Wege der heutigen Entwickelungsgeschichte") Prof. Haeckel, the great apostle of Evolution in Germany, announces the discovery of the following law: "In all the magnificent scientific institutes founded in America by Agassiz, the following empirical law, long recognized in Europe, has been confirmed, viz.: that the scientific work of these institutes and the intrinsic value of their publications stand in an inverse ratio to the magnitude of the buildings and the splendid appearance of their volumes.... I need only refer," he adds, "to the small and miserable institutes and the meagre resources with which Baer in Königsberg, Schleiden in Jena, Johannes Müller in Berlin, Liebig in Giessen, Virchow in Würzburg, Gegenbaur in Jena, have not only each advanced his special science most extensively, but have actually created new spheres for them. Compare with these the colossal expenditure and the luxurious apparatus in the grand institutes of Cambridge, Leipsic, and other so-called great universities. What have they produced in proportion to their means?"—Pall Mall Gazette.
Maturity of Timber-Trees.—A paper in the "Transactions of the Scottish Arboricultural Society" contains the following information with regard to the time required for various kinds of timber-trees to reach maturity: "The oak can never be cut down so profitably when small as when well matured, and having plenty of heart-wood. The timber is seldom of much value until it has reached the age of 100 years. Ash can be cut down more profitably in its young state than other hard-wood trees. When clean grown, and from thirty to forty years of age, it is in great demand for handle-wood and for agricultural implements. Beech is of very little value in its young state, and is seldom cut till well grown. Birch can be cut down profitably at about forty years old. Horse-chestnut, when grown on good soil, and in a sheltered position, can be profitably cut down when it attains large dimensions. Elms (Scotch and English) should never be cut until they are from eighty to one hundred years old. Poplars can generally be profitably sold when about fifty years old. Sycamore, growing in good soil, may be profitably cut down when about one hundred years old."
Source of the Nitrogen used by Plants.—The average life of an apple-tree in Normandy is estimated by M. Isidore Pierre at fifty years, and its nitrogen product (in leaves, fruit, wood, and roots) at 26 kilogrammes (about 60 pounds). This amount of nitrogen corresponds to 5,200 kilogrammes of farm manure, or 100 kilogrammes per year. But the tree is far from receiving any such amount; according to the author, the most liberal cultivator does not supply more nitrogen than is found in the seeds. The question then arises. Whence comes the remainder of this nitrogen? M. Thenard, in a communication to the Paris Academy of Sciences, denies that it comes directly from the soil, or from the manure, and holds that it is derived from the air through the soil. In confirmation of this, he cites the grape-vines of Clos-Vougeot, the youngest of which were planted in 1234, and which annually receive only one kilogramme of manure. The amount of nitrogen contained in this quantity of manure is inconsiderable, as compared with what is contained in the grapes, the leaves, and the wood.
Cranial Measurements.—Two noteworthy results of the comparative measurements of the crania belonging to historic and prehistoric times were dwelt upon by Prof. Rolleston, in his presidential address to the Section of Anthropology, at the last meeting of the British Association. It might be assumed that skulls from the earliest sepulchres would present the smallest capacity, and that the size of the brain-case has since increased with the intellectual development of our race. But this assumption is curiously contradicted by the facts. Indeed, the cubic contents of many skulls from the oldest known interments considerably exceed the capacity of modern European skulls of average build. Surprise at such a result may, however, be tempered by the reflection that the skulls which we have obtained from the earliest tumuli are probably those of the chiefs of their tribes, who may have been selected by virtue of their great energy. Nor should it be forgotten that in savage communities the chiefs come in for a larger share of food, and are, consequently, men of well-developed frames, and of more portly presence than their fellows. As to the poorer specimens of humanity in those days we probably know nothing, as they were denied burial in the tumuli, and have left their remains we know not where. Another curious fact is, that the female skulls from the earliest sepultures do not differ in capacity from the contemporary male skulls to the same degree as the crania of the two sexes differ at the present day. But it must be borne in mind that in those early times there was a greater struggle for existence, and that the division of labor was not carried out to a large extent, so that the tendency to a differentiation of the crania was less marked than in modern times.
An Indian Mill.—On the farm of Mr. Hollis Smith, near Marengo, Calhoun County, Michigan, there exists an interesting monument of aboriginal life, known in the locality as "The Indian Mill." As described in a letter to us by Mr. W. H. Payne, of Adrian, it consists of a great block of freestone, about fifteen feet in length and five feet in width. Near one edge of this block there is a hole fifteen inches deep, having a diameter at the top of twenty inches, resembling a large mortar. "At the time of my visit," writes Mr. Payne, "this 'mill' was filled with water from recent rains. This was measured as it was dipped out, and amounted to fourteen gallons. Early settlers report that this spot was frequented by Indians, who brought thither their corn to be ground or pounded in this stone mortar. In the vicinity are seen many broad, smooth-faced stones, whose surfaces seem to have been highly heated. It is not improbable that these were used by Indians whereon to bake their cakes of corn. The grain was pounded as follows: A spring-pole was attached to one of the trees which stood near, and from the free end of this was suspended over the mortar, by means of twisted bark, a stone of convenient form and size. Stones suitable for this purpose lie beside the 'mill,' and it is probable that they once served the purpose above indicated."
Excommunicated Insects.—À propos of the efforts in progress to destroy the phylloxera and other insect scourges in France, a writer in La Nature gives a curious bit of information relative to the way in which such pests used to be proceeded against when science, save so far as it could be made to agree with Romish dogmas, had no existence for the world. In 1120, the Bishop of Laon formally excommunicated all the caterpillars and field-mice. In 1488, the grand-vicars of Autun commanded the parish priests of the vicinity to enjoin the weevils to cease their ravages, and to excommunicate them. In 1535, the grand-vicar of Valence cited the caterpillars to appear before him for trial. He kindly assigned them counsel for their defense, and, as they did not appear, proceeded against and sentenced them, in contumaciam, to clear out of his diocese—a command which they probably obeyed!
During the seventeenth century, thirty-seven similar judgments, against both insects and quadrupeds, were issued. One is on record, during the eighteenth century, fulminated against a cow; and there is still another, of later date, due to a judge of Falaise, who condemned and hanged a sow for killing a child.—Christian Intelligencer.
Putting out Fires at Sea.—Liquid carbonic acid is proposed by Lieutenant F. M. Barber, U. S. Navy, as an agent for extinguishing fires on board ship. His plan, as communicated to the American Chemist, is to have, in some suitable place in the ship, a flask or flasks about three feet in length, and one foot in diameter, containing about 100 pounds of the gas in the liquid state. From the top of the flask, a small iron pipe is to be permanently fitted along the waterways throughout the entire length of the ship. From this main pipe branch pipes pass to every storeroom and compartment, each branch to be controlled separately by means of a cock. On the alarm of fire, the hatches are to be battened down, the cock in the branch pipe leading to the compartment where the fire is discovered is to be opened, and also the cock in the main next the gas-flask. The liquid gas passes out through the pipe in the form of vapor as soon as the pressure is removed, and is driven to the apartment where the fire is. This compartment it fills from the bottom up, without being diluted with the air. Given the cubic contents of any compartment, and the cubic space occupied by the cargo in it, sufficient gas can be admitted so as to render it absolutely certain that no fire can exist there. By then shutting the cock in the main pipe, the remainder of the gas is kept from vaporizing until such time as it may be required. This method of extinguishing fires is absolutely effectual; furthermore, it is simple, and involves no great expense. The only difficulties which seem to stand in the way of its practical application, are—1. The want of an apparatus for the expeditious and economical production of the liquid gas; and, 2. The want of suitable vessels to hold it at all temperatures. These difficulties, however, have been removed, and hence there exists no reason why all ships should not be provided with this effectual means of preventing disaster by fire.
In England, an apparatus for extinguishing fires on shipboard was recently patented. This apparatus, the "pyroletor," as it is called, consists of a small double pump worked by hand, which sucks lip through a tube on each side of it strong muriatic acid, and a solution of bicarbonate of soda; these commingle in a generator forming part of the pump, and the carbonic-acid gas and bicarbonate solution pass at once down a metal pipe to the hold, along whose keelson runs a perforated wooden box which admits of the gas passing through to the burning material. The agent, therefore, for the extinction of fire, is dry carbonic-acid gas, which has no action on the cargo. The Chemical News describes as follows an exhibition lately given of the working of the "pyroletor:" "The entire hold of a large wooden barge was covered to a depth of several feet with wood-shavings and cotton-waste saturated with turpentine and naphtha. A temporarily-raised and by no means air-tight wooden deck, with loosely-fitting boards, formed the wide hatchway-covering. The combustible material having been set on fire, the flames immediately ran along the entire cargo and issued above the temporary deck, which was then covered with boarding. The 'pyroletor' having been brought into action, the fire was completely extinguished in four minutes, though nearly half a gale was blowing." It is computed that a 1,200 ton ship requires half a ton of each of the chemicals, costing about $100.
Physical Characters of the British.—Dr. Beddoe, at the recent meeting of the British Association, advocated the necessity, from a practical point of view, not from that of mere scientific curiosity, of obtaining more extensive and accurate information as to the physical characters of man in Britain than could be obtained by private investigations. He desired to inquire thoroughly and systematically into the rates of growth, average stature, weight, etc., of men and women under normal or abnormal conditions, so as to have a fair starting-point for further investigation and action. Lord Aberdare said that some time since it was ascertained that the Irishman was superior to the Scotchman in vigor, and that the Englishman was lowest of the three. This he attributed to the fact that in Ireland and Scotland children were fed on food appropriate to them. He moved that a committee be appointed to collect observations on the subject of the heights and weight of human beings in Great Britain and Ireland, and that a grant of money be made to defray the expenses of such an inquiry. This resolution was adopted.
Native Home of the Rocky Mountain Locust.—In view of the great interest and alarm excited by the ravages of the grasshoppers in the West last year. Prof. C. V. Riley, State Entomologist of Missouri, gives, in the last seventy-five pages of his Seventh Annual Report, a very full and interesting account of the natural history of this insect, including the plants it feeds on, the parasites that feed on it, and a history of its noted incursions, with the means that may profitably be employed to arrest its depredations. From the section on its "native home" we quote some interesting remarks concerning the spread of the insect.
Having in July, 1874, given the opinion that the swarms of that year would reach the western counties of Missouri too late to do serious damage, and that they would not extend eastward beyond a line drawn, at a rough estimate, along longitude 17° west from Washington—an opinion, by-the-way, that was remarkably confirmed by subsequent events—the professor here proceeds to give his reasons for that conclusion:
"'But why,' it will again be asked, 'will not the young from the eggs laid along the eastern limit you have indicated hatch and spread farther to the eastward?' Here, again, historical record serves us, and there are, in addition, certain physical facts which help to answer the question.
"There is some difference of opinion as to the precise natural habitat and breeding-place of these insects, but the facts all indicate that it is by nature a denizen of great altitudes, breeding in the valleys, parks, and plateaus of the Rocky Mountain region of Colorado, and especially of Montana, Wyoming, and British America. Prof. Cyrus Thomas, who has had an excellent opportunity of studying it—through his connection with Hayden's geological survey of the Territories—reports it as occurring from Texas to British America, and from the Mississippi (more correctly speaking, the line I have indicated) westward to the Sierra Nevada range. But in all this vast extent of country, and especially in the more southern latitudes, there is every reason to believe that it breeds only on the higher mountain elevations, where the atmosphere is very dry and attenuated, and the soil seldom, if ever, gets soaked with moisture. . . .
"My own belief is, that the insect is at home in the greater altitudes of Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Northwest Dakota, and British America. It breeds in all this region, but particularly on the vast hot and dry plains and plateaus of the last-named Territories, and on the plains west of the mountains; its range being bounded, perhaps, on the east by that of the buffalo-grass.
"In all this immense stretch of country, as is well known, there are vast tracts of barren, almost desert land, while other tracts, for hundreds of miles, bear only a scanty vegetation, the short buffalo-grass of the more fertile prairies giving way, now to a more luxurious vegetation along the water-courses, now to the sage-bush and a few cacti. Another physical peculiarity is found in the fact that while the spring on these immense plains often opens as early, even away up into British America, as it does with us in the latitude of St. Louis, yet the vegetation is often dried and actually burned out before the first of July, so that not a green thing is to be found. Our Rocky Mountain locust, therefore, hatching out in untold myriads in the hot sandy plains, five or six thousand feet above the sea-level, will often perish in immense numbers if the scant vegetation of its native home dries up before it acquires wings; but if the season is propitious, and the insect becomes fledged before its food-supply is exhausted, the newly-acquired wings prove its salvation. . . . Prompted by that most exigent law of hunger—spurred on for very life—it rises in immense clouds in the air to seek for fresh pastures where it may stay its ravenous appetite. Borne along by the prevailing winds that sweep over these immense treeless plains from the northwest, often at the rate of fifty or sixty miles an hour, the darkening locust-clouds are soon carried into the more moist and fertile country to the southeast, where, with sharpened appetites, they fall upon the crops like a plague and a blight. . . . The hotter and drier the season, and the greater the extent of the drought, the earlier will they be prompted to migrate, and the farther will they push on to the east and south."The comparatively sudden change from the attenuated and dry atmosphere of five to eight thousand feet or more above the sea-level to the more humid and dense atmosphere of one thousand feet above that level, does not agree with them. The first generation hatched in this low country is unhealthy, and the few that attain maturity do not breed, but become intestate and 'go to the dogs.' At least, such is the case in our own State, and in the whole of the Mississippi Valley proper. . . ."
Temperature and Vegetation in Different Latitudes.—A communication on this subject was made by M. Alphonse de Candolle to the Academy of Sciences of Paris, and reported in the Comptes Rendus for June 7th. The object of the inquiry was to test the accuracy of the very common observation that vegetation comes forward much more rapidly in spring in northern latitudes than in the warmer regions of the temperate zone. Experimenting with seeds of several species of plants sent to him from Northern and Southern Europe, he found that those from the north were most precocious. Twigs, obtained in the winter, of the white poplar, tulip-tree, catalpa, and the Carpinus betulus, from Montpellier, were there tried with twigs from the same species at Geneva. They were laid aside, so that their temperature might become alike, and were then placed in water, a little sand being put in the bottom of the jar.
The German, or more northern branches, leafed out first; the difference of time between the leafing of the respective pairs being from eighteen to twenty-three days.
It is an interesting question, "Why do northern plants develop more rapidly than southern ones?" Prof. de Candolle comments on it in this wise: "The buds of a tree are in a continual struggle. The later, like badly-placed ones, develop imperfect branches which are oftener stifled. The most precocious prevail, unless indeed they suffer from frost. In this way comes a selection, and a successive adaptation of the tree to the climate."
Buds, by this means, acquire peculiarities which are persistent. If there be promptness and quickness of growth, these qualities are continually reproduced. An instance of the persistency of acquired peculiarities is given in a horse-chestnut tree near Geneva, which, on a single branch, produced double flowers about the year 1822, and has continued to do so; and all the doubled-flowered horse-chestnuts in the world are thought to be derived from that stock.
De Candolle, however, speaks of the more profound hibernal repose of northern plants producing in the buds greater susceptibility to the heat of spring. But, Prof. Gray, commenting on this in the American Journal of Science for September, suggestively remarks that "the way in which this increased susceptibility arises is not stated," and adds, "that natural selection would operate upon trees as upon cereal grains, inducing precocious races better adapted to the short summers, only more time would be required in case of the tree."
Influence of Water on Climate.—At the late meeting of the British Association, Prof Hennessy read a paper on the "of the Physical Properties of Water on Climate." The object of the paper was to contradict the opinion formerly expressed by Sir J. Herschel, that "water does not distribute heat in any thing like the same degree as land." According to Prof. Hennessy, of all substances largely existing in Nature, water is the most favorable to the absorption and distribution of solar heat. A sandy soil, such as that of the Sahara, although capable of exhibiting a very high temperature during the day, becomes cool during the night, and is one of the worst media for storing up the heat derived from sunshine. Water, on the contrary, stores up heat better than almost any other body. An objection was offered by Prof Everett, based on the generally-accepted fact that the temperature of the Southern Hemisphere is lower than that of the northern, despite the greater predominance of water in the former. This Prof. Hennessy denied to be a fact.
Curious Behavior of a Snake.—For the following account of an interesting exhibition of serpent-cunning, we are indebted to Mr. E. Lewis, of Brooklyn: "On the 20th of June last, while visiting at the house of a relative on Long Island, I saw on his lawn an adder, a species of snake common in that region. It seemed gentle, and, when approached, made no effort to escape. Wishing to observe its motions, I touched it with a stick, when, instead of moving away, it commenced a series of contortions that greatly surprised me. Nothing that I had seen in the motion of serpents of any kind showed so clearly as did this instance the extraordinary flexibility of their vertebral column. The contortions ended by the creature thrusting its head and open mouth into the loose dirt on the surface as if in great distress, when, partially extending itself and turning on its back, it lay as if quite dead. I lifted it on the stick, and carried it some yards, and laid it on the grass, but observed, in laying it down, that it showed some rigidity, in its tendency to turn or lie on its back. Others, who had witnessed the action of the snake, now left, and I stepped behind a tree for further observation.
"In two or three minutes the head of the snake rose a little, and I could see that it was observing the situation. Presently it turned on its belly, and was in a position to move away; but, on being touched, it turned on its back again. Finally, it raised its head, turned over, and, seeing no one, crawled slowly away.
"This behavior in the snake was new to me, and has not been observed by any with whom I have conversed concerning it. It seems to me probable that it arose from the instinct of self-preservation, or from the equally strong instinct for preservation of its young. No young ones were seen, however, but they may have been near in the grass, and it was a season of the year when their presence might be expected. There was certainly nothing more curious or strange in the snake's feigning death than in birds feigning lameness, and other animals feigning death, when themselves or their young are in danger; but I conclude the phenomenon is unusual with serpents."
A New Enemy of Submarine Cables.—In 1865 the world-renowned special correspondent of the London Times, W. H. Russell, modestly gave utterance to a prophecy which time has since fulfilled almost to the letter. He then wrote: "As a mite would in all probability never have been seen but for the invention of cheese, so it may be that there is some undeveloped creation waiting perdu for the first piece of gutta-percha, which comes down (to the sea-bottom) to arouse his faculty and fulfill his functions of life—a gutta-percha boring and eating teredo, who has been waiting for his meal since the beginning of the world." This enemy of submarine cables has already made his appearance, as was briefly announced in a recent number of The Monthly. It is a crustacean, less than a quarter of an inch in length, and known as Limnoria terebrans. "One breakfast which he may take," says Dr. J. H. Gladstone, "may cost more than the breakfast of any luxurious Roman epicure in ancient times, because he may destroy a whole cable, and it may take a year to repair the damage which he may do in a minute."
Hawkshaw on the Channel.—In the course of the debate which followed the reading of a paper on the proposed tunnel between England and France, at the Bristol meeting of the British Association, Sir John Hawkshaw made a speech, in which he expressed his perfect confidence in the ultimate success of that great undertaking. "The question arises," said he, "as to the risk in tunneling through the chalk. Of course we cannot measure that risk with any certainty, but we are constantly in the habit of undertaking engineering work which sometimes involves an unknown amount of risk, and it becomes the business of the engineer to encounter these risks. Prof. Hébert seems to expect that the chalk, although it may be continuous, as we have ascertained it to be, all across the channel, may have such fissures in it that, in constructing the tunnel at the depth we propose to go, it is possible we may cut through the chalk into the green sand. Suppose that were so, it would not deter me from encountering this work. A great mistake is often made with reference to the percolation of water. Water, though it passes through sand, passes with very slow velocity. I have had to make deep excavations in sand fifty or sixty feet below the level of the sea, and though water comes rather rapidly at first, until it has drawn away a portion of the water which is in the sand adjacent to your work, yet, after that, it comes with extreme slowness. Therefore, I am not afraid of percolation of water in that sense. With regard to the percolation of water through the solid chalk, that is of no consequence; water passes so slowly through chalk, that it might continue to pass, and nobody would care about it. Of course there is a thing that might occur which would be serious. If you could imagine a clear, open fissure from the bottom of the sea to the tunnel, where water could pass, there is no doubt, with that enormous pressure, it would pass with very great velocity, and would be a very troublesome thing to encounter. I do not myself believe in there being any such fissure. That is almost the only difficulty which, I think, would hinder this tunnel. I do not mean to say that would stop it, but it is possible, if we met with a thing like that, we should have to have recourse to something else, which I have not yet devised, because I do not expect it."
Sanitary Condition of Watering-Places.—At the Baltimore meeting of the American Public Health Association, Prof. Henry Hartshorne read a report on the sanitary condition of our popular watering-places. The report points out the danger to health at such resorts from the contamination of drinking-water by soil saturated with sewage. To prevent this, one or both of two measures must be adopted, namely—1. To use for cooking and drinking either rainwater or water conveyed from a distant, uncontaminated source; or, 2. To protect the soil from contamination by the construction of impervious wells for receiving all impure matters. The former of these measures is always safest; for the latter to be carried out without injury to health requires close and constant supervision. The report finally expresses a desire that records of disease and mortuary statistics of the watering-places in the United States be collected at some central point.
Geology at the Syracuse University.—The elementary instruction in geology at Syracuse University, which heretofore has been distributed through the first and second terms of the collegiate year, will be given this year during February and March, so as to occupy the attention of the students with this subject almost exclusively during those two months. The plan is intended to accommodate the large number of persons of all ages who feel the desirableness of an outline acquaintance with geology, and who might be able to devote two months to the study, while their convenience does not permit them to lake an entire geological course, or to keep the study in hand six months or a year. Simultaneously with the elementary course, two advanced courses will be set on foot during the months named; one of these courses will be Lithological, and the other Paleontological. Prof. Alexander Winchell will have the general direction of this special school of geology, with numerous assistants, among whom are Prof. James Hall, Prof. Burt G. Wilder, and Prof. Edward D. Cope. The school opens on Tuesday, January 25th.
The Value of Vivisection.—The question of vivisection was the subject of an address by Dr. William Rutherford, at the last meeting of the British Medical Association. Physiology, he observed, is an experimental science. Apart from experiments which are the result of artifice, disease and accident are constantly bringing about conditions which partake of the nature of experiments, and are sometimes of great physiological significance. Still, this teaching of disease and accident leads us but a short way, and the pursuit of physiological truth by their aid is often an uncertain, devious, and complicated method. Dr. Rutherford effectively contrasted the very imperfect and indirect theoretical method of physiological instruction in the past with that by demonstration and experiment in the present time. No one can doubt for a moment that the reasoning, critical faculties are truly educated where men are trained to see and examine for themselves the experimental evidence on which physiological knowledge rests. Dr. Rutherford holds that definite, critical knowledge of animal mechanism cannot be attained unless students be shown experiments on living animals.
Prolific Peaches.—At a meeting of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Mr. Meehan exhibited some branches of peach, in which the young fruit were in twos and threes from one flower. They were from the Chinese double-flowering kind. He remarked that, as is well known, plants with double flowers are rarely fertile. Either the stamens are wholly changed to petals, or the less vital conditions which always accompany this floral state are unequal to the task of producing perfect pistils. Vitality, however, he observed, is more or less affected by external conditions, independently of the mere structure of organs, and this was well illustrated by the remarkable fertility of the peach last season. This abounding vitality had evidently extended to the double peaches, and had influenced the development of the female organs to an unusual extent. These facts have an interest in botanical classification. Lindley removed the cherry, plum, peach, and their allies from the Rosaceæ, chiefly because they had but a single free carpel, and grouped them as Drupaceæ. The production of two and three carpels in this case shows the true relation, and it might be of use to those interested in "theories of descent."
Stability of Chinese Civilization.—In accounting for the wonderful cohesion of the great Chinese Empire, the Prussian traveler Von Richthofen says that the causes of this phenomenon are manifold. First, the pitiless extermination of such tribes as the Man-tse. Then the complete fusion of uncultured races with the civilized Chinese, from which has resulted an homogeneous people, with one language, the same manners, and the same traditions. But above all stands the fact that Chinese civilization is indigenous. In Europe, civilization is the result of the efforts of several nations, and has been attained only at the cost of much strife and sacrifice, one people transmitting to another its hard-earned advantages. But in China civilization was developed in more orderly fashion, and is the product of the genius of a single people. The Chinese have very rarely come in contact with neighboring peoples, nor have they borrowed from the Hindoos any thing save Buddhism, and that has certainly been of no advantage to the nation. For 4,000 years they have faithfully preserved the religious and political principles set forth in the decrees of the Emperor Yan, and, though again and again the edifice raised upon this firm foundation has tottered, it has been again set up on the same basis. These principles, which alone uphold the unity of this vast empire, stand to this day intact, nor does "Von Richthofen perceive any evidences of senile weakness in the body politic; on the contrary, he thinks that in the future Chinese civilization will have a mighty development, without losing any of its native characteristics. The principles which governed its first establishment, and which are still influential in moulding it, are in fact perfectly in accordance with natural laws, being simply the application to the social and political state of the principles of the paternal authority and filial obedience. In China the authority of the father of a family is unlimited, the obedience of the son is absolute. The emperor, as the father of his subjects, the mandarins, his representatives, receive from the people a filial obedience, but at the same time the sovereign must conform himself to the holy maxims of Confucius. There may be cases of defection, rebellion; functionaries may yield to corruption, as has been the case of late years; but sooner or later order will be restored, and the mandates of the central power will be again respected to the outermost limits of the empire.
European Life in India.—The "Value of European Life in India" was the subject of a paper read at the last meeting of the British Association by Dr. F. J. Monat. The author stated that within the present century the annual loss of European life in India had gradually and steadily decreased from about 60 per 1,000 to an average of 15 or 16. This decrement is still in progress. Among 24,500 British army officers in India, from 1861 to 1870, the death-rate from all causes was not quite 17 per 1,000. In the Madras Presidency, in the same period, among corresponding classes, the average rate was somewhat less; and, among carefully-selected European railway employés, the parliamentary returns show the mortality rate to be about 10 per 1,000. The author expressed the opinion that the Anglo-Saxon colonization of the plains of India is impossible; but that in the hill country a healthy, vigorous, European population could take root and flourish. On the whole, he regarded the present state of the question as most encouraging, and that the risks to life in India of persons who were sound in constitution, and reasonably prudent in their mode of life, are not much in excess of those incurred in more temperate climates.
Cost of a Small-Pox Epidemic.—At the recent meeting of the American Health Association a paper was read by Dr. Benjamin Lee, on the cost to the city of Philadelphia of the small-pox epidemic which existed there in the winter of 1871-'72. When the disease first appeared, no effective measures were taken to combat it. The public treasury could not bear the expense, it was said; besides, were any thoroughgoing action to be taken by the city authorities, traders from abroad would learn that the disease prevailed in the city, and would go to other markets. Dr. Lee's paper is intended to show that herein the authorities were "penny wise, pound foolish." The direct and the indirect losses caused to Philadelphia by that one visitation of small-pox amount to an enormous sum of money, a small fraction of which would have sufficed, if judiciously expended, to insure immunity from the disease. The losses as computed by Dr. Lee exceed $20,000,000.