Popular Science Monthly/Volume 9/June 1876/Literary Notices
On Fermentation. By P. Schützenberger. With Twenty-eight Illustrations. Pp. 306. Price, $1.50. D. Appleton & Co. No. XX. International Scientific Series.
In the logic of science, the misleading influence of words is a matter of ever-increasing importance. Words remain, but the ideas they represent are altered, expanded, revolutionized. The old and narrow meanings live on in common speech, and the changed and enlarged significations are current among men of science, so that when the terms are employed between these classes they have so totally different a signification that intelligent and critical interchange of ideas between them is hardly possible. The term applied to the present work is a case in point. The word; "fermentation" is derived from fervere, to boil, and applies to the agitation or, effervescence of saccharine liquids when placed in contact with ferments—a phenomenon that was probably familiarly known long before the earliest traces of> history. To the mass of people, the word "fermentation" suggests bread-making and brewing, with the production of spirituous and souring products. To the man of science and as treated in the present volume, fermentation has become one of the great gateways to biology. The subject has ever been, and must continue to be, of great practical moment in its domestic and manufacturing relations; and every step in its scientific elucidation is therefore a contribution to the theory and progress of the arts. The knowledge of it has now become so clear and extended, that it was necessary it should be brought together in a special treatise for reference for all who are interested in practical problems of organic chemistry. But while the present book fulfills this condition, it also aims at the higher object of bringing the principles of the subject into relation with philosophical biology. The scientific significance of fermentation lies in the fact that it brings before us the action and effects of the lowest and most elemental forms of living organisms; it deals with the behavior and influence in numerous relations of elementary organisms reduced to a single cell; but these cells are the units of all organic life, a plant or an animal of a higher order being only the union under special laws of different kinds of cells, each of which acts in a certain determinable manner. While the higher organisms baffle analysis from the infinite complexity and diversity of their minute or histological elements, the key to their study is offered in these lower structures, for "the more simple an organism is, the fewer special kinds of cells it contains, the simpler are the chemical reactions which take place in it, and the more easily are they separated from each other and isolated by experiment;" and from this point of view the history of fermentation becomes nothing less than that of the chemical phenomena of life. The thorough study of ferments, therefore, becomes an indispensable scientific prerequisite to the knowledge of the higher organisms.
The investigation of the influence of different ferment-cells in initiating different lines of chemical change brings us into closer quarters with the relations of chemical and so-called vital forces. As the different radiant forces, thermal, luminous, and chemical, produce their profoundly diverse effects simply by variations of wave-length, so the different kind of cells are supposed to initiate different chemical changes by differences in the vibratory rhythm which starts them. In relation to this point our author remarks:
"The transformation of sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide and the conversion of Hie same body into lactic acid are chemical phenomena which we cannot yet reproduce by the intervention of beat alone, nor by the additional agency of light or of electricity. The force capable of attacking, in a certain determinate direction, the complex edifice which we call sugar, an edifice composed of atoms of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, grouped according to a determinate law—this force, which is manifested only in the living cell of the ferment, is a force as material as all those which we are accustomed to utilize. Its principal peculiarity is, that it is only found I in the living organisms, to which it gives their peculiar character. We ought not to allow ourselves to be stopped by this rampart, over which no one has hitherto been able to pass; we ought not to say to the chemist, 'You shall go no farther, for beyond this is the domain of life, where you have no control.' The history of science shows us the weakness of these so-called impassable barriers. No one can any longer admit that vital force has power over matter, to change, counterbalance, or annul, the natural play of chemical affinities. That which we have agreed to call chemical affinity is not an absolute force; this affinity is modified in numberless ways, according as the circumstances vary by which bodies are surrounded. Thus, the apparent differences between the reactions of the laboratory and those of the organism ought to be sought for, more particularly among the special conditions, which the latter alone has been able hitherto to bring together. In other words, there is really no chemical vital force. If living cells produce reactions which seem peculiar to themselves, it is because they realize conditions of molecular mechanism which we have not hitherto succeeded in tracing, but which we shall, without doubt, be able to discover at some future time. Science can gain nothing by being limited in the possibility of the aims which she proposes to herself, or the end which she seeks."
Memoir of Sir Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford), with Notices of his Daughter. By George E. Ellis. Published, in connection with an edition of Rumford's Complete Works, by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Boston. Pp. 680.
Rumford's Complete Works, vol. I., pp. 493. Vol. II., pp. 570. Vol. III., pp. 504. Vol. IV., pp. 842. Price of the set, including the "Life," $25.00. Boston: Estes & Lauriat.
We elsewhere publish a brief notice of the life of Count Rumford—so brief as hardly to give a just idea of the interest that attaches to the romantic and remarkable story of his career. But few biographies are richer in varied incident, or fuller of instruction, than this of Rumford; and its literary execution, by Mr. Ellis, is well worthy of the subject. The four volumes of his works comprise not only all the Count's essays, formerly published in English, but also valuable papers written by him in French and German which have been first translated for this edition. The collection has been supervised by the Rumford Committee of the American Academy of Sciences, who have grouped together in the several volumes, as far as was practicable, the papers on allied subjects: thus the scientific papers will be found chiefly in the first two volumes; descriptions of improved methods of warming and cooking occupy the third; and the greater part of the last is devoted to philanthropic essays; but this also contains the scientific papers on light. The volumes are splendidly illustrated and elegantly printed. The American Academy of Sciences could have given no worthier tribute to the fame of this man than to furnish the world with so excellent an edition of his writings.
Life-Histories of the Birds of Eastern Pennsylvania. By Thomas Gentry. In Two Volumes. Vol. I. Pp. 400. Philadelphia: The author.
This work is intended to present more fully than has been done before the habits, food, migrations, and other characteristics of the birds of Eastern Pennsylvania.
Especial attention is given to the building of nests; showing wherein they vary, and the causes for such variations.
The labor of nidification; the periods of incubation, and the part which the male takes in it; the age when the young quit their nests; the character of the sexes before and after incubation; and the food, as insects, seeds, and berries, on which the birds, old and young, depend, are carefully considered by the patient and indefatigable author.
Very much of value is thus added to our knowledge of bird-life, and what is specially important to our knowledge of the instincts and mental constitution and emotions of birds.
We look for good results from the labors of Mr. Gentry. The system of classification he adopts is the same as that of Dr. Elliott Coues in his "Key to North American Birds."
Report of the Trustees of the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoölogy.
Gives an account of all changes and additions in the various sections of the Museum during 1875. From the report on instruction in zoölogy, it appears that during the year 1874-'75 there were eighteen students attending the lectures of Prof. McCrady. A detailed statement is made of the condition of the Agassiz Memorial Fund.
The Physiology of the Circulation in Plants, in the Lower Animals, and in Man. By J. Bell Pettigrew, M. D., F. R. S. London and New York: Macmillan. Pp. 329. Price, $4.
In this work we have what the Lancet justly calls "the first serious attempt at a great generalization on an avowedly difficult subject." The author has undertaken no less a task than to show that the circulation, as it takes place in plants, animals, and man, is essentially the same in kind; differing mainly in the degree of complexity attained by the organs which carry it on, and of the resulting movements of the circulating fluids.
The book opens with a brief history of the growth of the subject, from the fanciful notions held centuries ago by the Chinese that "the circulation of the vital heat and radical humors commenced at three o'clock in the morning, reached the lungs in the course of the day, and terminated in the liver at the end of twenty-four hours," up to the exact scientific demonstrations of Harvey and Malpighi. "The term 'circulation,' in the present day," says the author, "is employed in a double sense. In its wider signification it embraces the course of the nutritious juices through plants and the lower order of animals; in its more limited signification, and as applied to man and the higher orders of animated beings, it indicates the course of the blood from the heart to the capillaries, and from these back again to the heart. The word 'circulation' literally means a flowing round, a going and returning; and it is well to bear the original meaning in mind, as we shall find that a single circle aptly represents the circulation in most of the lower animals, a circle with one or more accessory loops, representing the circulation in the higher ones."
The circulation in plants is first described, the ascent, descent, and lateral distribution of the sap, and the forces which maintain the flow, being each fully treated. Many curious resemblances between the circulation in plants and that in animals are pointed out in this section of the work. On this point the author says: "I now proceed to a consideration of the circulation as it exists in animals; and an attentive examination of the subject not only induces me to believe that there is a striking analogy between the circulation in animals and plants, but that in animals devoid of pulsatile vessels and hearts it is in some senses identical, and traceable to the operation of the same forces."
The subject of the circulation in animals occupies the bulk of the book, that of the invertebrates, as being in some sense intermediate between plants and the higher animals, being treated first. In a number of the lowest of these no trace of a circulation has yet been detected, the nutritious fluids in such cases being supposed to pass from the alimentary canal by interstitial transudation throughout the entire body, as the sap passes into the substance of cellular plants. A step in advance is observed where, as in the polypi, medusæ, etc., the alimentary canal is of large size and ramifies in every part of the body, serving at the same time as a circulatory and alimentary apparatus. The next advance is the appearance of distinct vessels, minus contractile power, as in plants. Vessels possessing contractile power, but without any distinct contractile organ, are next found; and afterward the heart appears, increasing in complexity of structure along with the related organs, until its highest development is reached in the mammalia.
On the subject of the forces which give rise to the circulation in the higher animals, the author, while admitting that a large share of the work is done by the heart, argues at length in favor of the view that this organ alone is not equal to the task; and that other agencies, such as osmosis, capillary attraction, absorption, chemical affinity, etc., aid materially in the process.
To the physiological student the book is exceedingly interesting, not only for the novel views which it contains, but for the admirable way in which the author has presented the leading facts of his subject, as drawn from the whole range of living Nature. The print is good, and the illustrations, of which there are one hundred and fifty, are also well done.
Lectures on some Recent Advances in Physical Science. By P. G. Tait, M. A. Pp. 337. Macmillan & Co. Price, $2.50.
The disputes that have arisen in various quarters regarding the honor due to different investigators for working out the modern doctrines of "Energy" have been participated in by Prof. Tait, of Edinburgh, and this volume is probably due to his interest in the controversy. He was invited by a number of his friends to give a course of lectures on the chief advances made in natural philosophy since their student-days, and the author remarks that "the only special requests made to me were, that I should treat fully the modern history of energy, and that I should publish the lectures verbatim." The strictly historic part, however, is by no means the main, or the most important, feature of the work. It furnishes its method, but the book is valuable chiefly as explaining and expounding the modern doctrines of energy in a manner at once popular and thorough. No adequate exposition of these views has yet gained entrance into our text-books of physics; and a work was much needed, by a competent man, which would present the whole question in its latest aspects. The volume of Prof. Tait, though not without its defects, may be commended as meeting this want in a tolerably satisfactory manner.
Through and through the Tropics. By Frank Vincent, Jr. New York: Harper & Brothers. Pp. 304.
Thirty thousand miles of travel affords large opportunity for observations, and to give an account of them in a book of three hundred pages seems a hopeless task. Mr. Vincent, however, has made the attempt in this racy book, and has succeeded fairly in presenting a series of descriptions of some of the more important places visited by him, and the reader follows him with interest to the close. His chapters on the Sandwich Islands, and on the journey to High Asia, to the sacred city of the Hindoos, and to the famous Taj Mahal, are especially full of interest.
The Early Literature of Chemistry. VI. By H. C. Bolton.
This sixth part of Dr. Bolton's "Notes on the Early Literature of Chemistry" treats of the ancient papyrus-book on medicine discovered by Ebers at Thebes, Egypt, two or three years ago. Dr. Bolton gives the table of contents of the book with some selected passages translated out of the hieratic original.
A Treatise on the Diseases of the Nervous System. By William A. Hammond, M. D. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 883, with 109 Illustrations. Price, $6.
The standing of this work may be inferred from the fact that it has gone to the sixth edition, and, having been out of print a year, reappears rewritten, enlarged, and much improved. Dr. Hammond has made the subject of this work a specialty, and his extensive medical practice in the department of nervous diseases can hardly fail to give much practical value to his treatise upon the subject. The work is written for medical students and the profession, but other people can collect a great deal of information from it, curious and valuable, in regard to nervous actions, conditions, and disorders.
In his preface Dr. Hammond says: "One feature I may, however, with justice claim for this work, and that is, that it rests to a great extent on my own observation and experience, and is, therefore, no mere compilation. The reader will readily perceive that I have views of my own on every disease considered, and that I have not hesitated to express them." Obviously, the great obscurity and unsettledness of our knowledge, both of the physiology and pathology of the nervous system, offer a strong temptation to confident minds to form and promulgate positive opinions concerning them, but the same causes should enforce caution upon the student in their acceptance.
Painters' Magazine. Monthly, pp. 40. A. G. Sullivan, Editor and Publisher.
The eighth number of the second annual volume has just been published, and presents to its readers an excellent and varied table of contents, besides some useful illustrations for the practical painter, artist, etc. The contributions are from some of the best writers of the day upon the various branches of painting. This magazine must be useful not only to the painter, but also to the architect and builder. That a better idea may be had, we give the headings of leading articles, viz.: House-Painting; Interior or Mural Decoration; Pigment and Color; Hints on Drawing; Answers to Correspondents; Railway-Car Painting, etc. Price, $1.50 per annum.
Magnetism and Electricity. By F. Guthrie. New York: Putnams. Price, $1.50.
In this little volume, Prof. Guthrie, of the Royal School of Mines, London, presents to the general student of magnetism and electricity a very full compendium of that science. In directness of statement and clearness of expression this treatise is deserving of very high praise, and these qualities it doubtless owes to the circumstance that it is based upon the notes of the lectures delivered by the author for many years to mining students and science-teachers. The work is illustrated with over 300 woodcuts.
Notes on Building Construction. For sale by Lippincott, Philadelphia.
This is the first of a series of three volumes, intended to assist pupils who are preparing for the examinations in building construction held annually under the direction of the Science and Art Department of the British Government. This first part treats of the points laid down as necessary for the examination in the elementary course. The subjects discussed are: Walling and arches; brickwork; masonry; carpentry; floors; partitions; timber roofs; iron roofs; slating; plumbing; cast-iron girders; joinery.
Legal Chemistry. By A. Naquet. Pp. 178. Price, $2. New York: Van Nostrand.
The title of this work sufficiently indicates its purport, namely, the solution of chemical problems arising in the administration of justice. As a matter of course, the subject of the detection of poisons receives the most attention; but the author also describes the processes to be adopted for examining sundry alimentary and pharmaceutical substances, for examining written documents, blood-stains, etc. The translator of the work, Dr. J. P. Battershall, appends a list of books and memoirs on the subject of toxicology and the allied branches.
Principal Characters of the Dinocerata. By Prof. O. C. Marsh.
This is a reprint from the American Journal of Science and Art. Besides the letter-press, the paper contains six lithographic plates giving views of the skull, dentition, jaw, feet, etc., of Dinocerata.
Structure and Relation of Dinychthys. By J. S. Newberry. Pp. 64. With Plates. Columbus, Ohio: Nevins & Myers.
Chemistry, Practical and Analytical. Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Philadelphia: Lippincott & Co.
Report on Vienna Bread. By E. N. Horsford. Pp. 130. Washington: Government Printing-Office.
Worcester Lyceum and Natural History Association. By N. Payne. Pp. 13.
Land and Fresh-Water Mollusca found in the vicinity of Cincinnati. Pp. 5.
Man: Palæolithic, Neolithic, etc., not inconsistent with Scripture. By Nemo. Dublin: Hodges, Foster & Co. Pp. 137. Price, five shillings.
Bulletin of the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories. Vol. II., Nos. 1 and 2. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 90 and 100.
Bulletin of the Bussey Institution. Part 5. Pp. 95
Roads, Streets, and Pavements. By Brevet Major-General Gillmore. Pp. 258. New York: Van Nostrand. Price, $2.
American Catholic Quarterly Review. Vol. I., No. 2. Pp. 190. Philadelphia: Hardy & Mahony. Price, $5 per annum.
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science. Vol. IV., pp. 64. Topeka: G. W. Martin, Printer.
Geological Survey of Ohio. Paleontology, Vol. II., pp. 432, with numerous Plates; Geology, Vol. II., pp. 700, with Maps. Columbus: Nevins & Myers, State Printers.
Physics and Hydraulics of the Mississippi River. By J. B. Pads, C. E. Pp. 33. New Orleans: Picayune Print.
The Drift of Devon and Cornwall. By T. Belt, F. G. S. Pp. 11.
Urinary Calculus. By W. F. Westmoreland, M. I). Pp. 11. Atlanta, Georgia: Dunlop, Wynne & Co.
The "One-Rail" Railroad. By C. J. Quetil. New York: Cheap Transportation Association.
List of Skeletons and Crania in the Army Medical Museum, Washington. Pp. 52.
The Opium-Habit. By S. E. Chaillé, M.D. Pp. 9. From the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal. Also, Climatotherapy of Consumption. Same author. Pp. 16.
Michigan State Board of Health Report, 1875. Pp. 170.
Transcendentalism. By Theodore Parker. Boston: Free Religious Association. Pp. 39. Price, 10 cents.
Mechanical Construction of Water, By Captain J. E. Cole. Pp. 27. New York: E. O'Keefe, Printer.
Hospitals for the Sick and Insane. Pp. 54. Albany: Weed, Parsons & Co.
Deed of Trust of James Lick. Pp. 24.
New Orleans Price Current, 1876. Pp. 89.