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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 9/May 1876/Literary Notices

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 9‎ | May 1876


The Unseen World, and other Essays. By John Fiske, M. A. LL. B. Pp. 349. Price $2. J. R. Osgood & Co.

To say that this volume is by the author of the "Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy" will be at once to commend it to a large circle of readers; but as a series of interesting papers on a wide variety of topics, scientific, philosophic, artistic, historical, and critical, it will be commended to many who have not been attracted to the earlier and more solid publication. Most of the articles of the volume will be remembered as they appeared in the periodicals; admirable in style, bold in thought, and rich in scholarly erudition. Mr. Fiske has views of his own which he works out with freedom, and often with great beauty and force of statement.

The volume takes its name from the first two essays, which lately appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, and were read with interest by many thoughtful people. They start from the speculations of a recent book entitled "The Unseen Universe," which broke into a somewhat new field of ingenious scientific conjecture, and was read with an eager but rather perplexed curiosity by those who are fond of transcendental inquiries. This work has been already noticed in the Monthly, and is chiefly important as an effort by thoroughly disciplined scientific men to arrive at the conception of immortality and a realm of future spiritual life from the scientific point of view. Mr. Fiske is in sympathy with this aspiration, but deals with the problem by his own methods, and perhaps in an abler way than the authors who opened the discussion. We cannot here reproduce his views, which are only to be understood by a careful perusal of the essays in which they are presented.

But, while cordially recommending this volume as a whole, we must except the review of Draper's "History of the Conflict between Religion and Science," which we think somewhat unworthy the author. Mr. Fiske adopts a deprecatory tone in speaking of Draper's books, which is construed by the newspapers into contempt—which jumps with public prejudice, and is quite to be expected from certain quarters; but for which he gives us no satisfactory reasons.

He charges Dr. Draper with superficiality and mental idiosyncrasy, in not understanding Rome; in not appreciating Greece; in hostility to the Catholic Church; in over-rating semi-barbarous civilizations, "and above all an undiscriminating admiration for everything, great or small, that has ever worn the garb of Islam, or been associated with the career of the Saracens." But, after indulging in a little sarcasm at Dr. Draper's admiration of the "turbaned sage," Mr. Fiske finds himself compelled to say:

"Speaking briefly with regard to this matter, we may freely admit that the work done by the Arabs, in scientific inquiry as well as in the making of events, was very considerable. It was a work, too, the value of which is not commonly appreciated in the accounts of European history written for the general reader, and we have no disposition to find fault with Dr. Draper for describing it with enthusiasm. The philosophers of Bagdad and Cordova did excellent service in keeping alive the traditions of Greek physical inquiry at a time when Christian thinkers were too exclusively occupied with transcendental speculations in theology and logic. In some departments, as in chemistry and astronomy, they made original discoveries of considerable value; and if we turn from abstract knowledge to the arts of life, it cannot be denied that the mediæval Mussulmans had reached a higher plane of material comfort than their Christian contemporaries. In short, the work of all kinds done by these people would furnish the judicious advocate of the claims of the Semitic race with materials for a pleasing and instructive picture."

Very well; these are facts of some importance, but who had brought them out for public appreciation before Dr. Draper published his "History of the Intellectual Development of Europe?" And, although Mr. Fiske may differ from him in regard to the historical import of Arabian science, we fail to see any occasion for the indulgence of sneering and disparagement.

And now in regard to the "Conflict." The theologians of all ilks, who have taken up Dr. Draper's recent book, are agreed that it is a piece of futility because there is really no such conflict as that of which he pretends to have given the history. Messrs. Brownson, Hill, Washburn, Deems, and Co., are vehement in asserting the groundlessness and absurdity of Dr. Draper's assumption; and now, as if he had been sitting under the droppings of the Hippodrome, Mr. Fiske cordially acquiesces in the ardent views of these gentlemen. He says of Dr. Draper: "When he enlarges on the trite story of Galileo and alludes to the more modern quarrel between the Church and geologists, and does this in the belief that he is thereby illustrating an antagonism between Religion and Science, it is obvious that he identifies the cause of the antigeologists and the persecutors of Galileo with the cause of Religion. The word 'religion' is to him a symbol which stands for unenlightened bigotry or narrow-minded unwillingness to look facts in the face. . . . It is, nevertheless, a very superficial conception, and no book which is vitiated by it can have much philosophic value. . . . Since, then, the scientific innovator does not, either voluntarily or involuntarily, attack religion, it follows that there can be no such 'conflict' as that of which Dr. Draper has undertaken to write the history. The real contest is between one phase of science and another." This will hardly do. Mr. Fiske says that no book vitiated by this superficial conception can have much philosophic value. But, in the "First Principles" of Herbert Spencer, on page 11, we read:

"Of all antagonisms of belief, the oldest, the widest, the most profound, and the most important, is that between religion and science. It commenced when the recognition of the simplest uniformities in surrounding things set a limit to the previous universal fetichism. It shows itself everywhere throughout the domain of human knowledge, affecting men's interpretations alike of the simplest mechanical accidents and of the most complicated events in the histories of nations. It has its roots deep down in the diverse habits of thought of different orders of minds. And the conflicting conceptions of Nature and life which these diverse habits of thought severally generate, influence for good or ill the tone of feeling and the daily conduct. An unceasing battle of opinion like this, which has been carried on throughout all ages, under the banners of religion and science," etc.

Mr. Spencer, of course, holds to the possibility of an ultimate reconciliation between Religion and Science, but he does not commit the folly of denying their past and present antagonism. Dr. Draper has made no attempt to deal with the philosophy of the subject, and he is not to be judged by that standard. Assuming, as Spencer has done, that it is a fact, and a fact of vast significance, he is the first to have given us its history; and, whatever opinion may be entertained regarding the manner of its execution, he had a valid theme, and deals with veritable phenomena. And, had his manner of doing the work been more open to attack, we should probably have heard a good deal less about the baselessness of the antagonism which he has described.

The point of contention is as to what constitutes religion. Dr. Draper was justified in taking the term in its current significance as comprehending the general doctrines and policy of religious organizations. That sects differ, and eat each other up in their denials of dogmas, was nothing to him. And, though they should all agree at last as to what religion is, and discredit the total affirmations of past theology, the historical aspects of the case will remain the same. He was not called upon to settle sectarian disputes, or to find out that denomination which possesses the true faith. Mr. Fiske complains of him for not defining this element of his thesis, and he proceeds to do it; himself, as follows: "All animals seek for fullness of life; but in civilized man this craving has acquired a moral significance, and has become a spiritual aspiration; and this emotional tendency, more or less strong in the human race, we call religious feeling or religion." Admirable! but how far accepted? We hope that the agreement of Messrs. Brownson, Hill, Washburn, Deems, Fiske, and Co., in denouncing the groundlessness of the "conflict," will not be construed as implying any agreement among the parties as to what religion is. If these gentlemen will get together and settle the point, an important step will be gained; and The Popular Science Monthly will gladly pay the expenses of a convention of reasonable length for such a purpose, but we stipulate not to foot the bills until they reach an agreement.

A Short History of Natural Science and of the Progress of Discovery from the Time of the Greeks to the Present Day. For the Use of Schools and Young Persons. With Illustrations. Pp. 467. D. Appleton & Co. Price, $2.

We called attention recently to the influence of the Centennial in stimulating the study of political history, and expressed the hope that the gathering together of the products of art, science, and industry, of all nations, at the Great Exhibition in Philadelphia, would have the effect of promoting the historical study of this class of subjects in American schools. It was pointed out that this line of literature has been greatly neglected, and is so backward that students desiring to attend to it would be much perplexed to find suitable textbooks for the purpose. An important and very successful step has, however, been taken to supply this deficiency. The work now published under the above title, considering that it is the first attempt to treat the history of science in a brief and popular way for educational purposes, is of very superior merit. We took it up with doubt, we read it with a growing interest, and cordially recommend it both for general reading and as a school-book. The authoress has made no scientific discoveries; and we question if there are many who have done so who could make so judicious a compend of general scientific history as she has done. But, if she has not made a name as an explorer, she has been a careful student of science, and, having been for many years secretary to the late Sir Charles Lyell, and brought into contact with many of the leading scientific men of the day, she had peculiar opportunities of qualifying herself for the task of writing a popular scientific history. Her style is clear and direct, and her power of explanation we think something quite unusual, while the proportions in which the subjects are treated evince good artistic judgment in the work of bookmaking. Illustrations are introduced with discretion, to help the text, and brief biographical notices are interspersed which give interest to the course of the narrative, and the exposition of scientific work. The book is, moreover, essentially accurate and trustworthy; and executed with far more faithfulness than is usual in compilations. Miss Buckley's volume ought to be unhesitatingly and extensively adopted in our schools, and kept there until superseded by a better, which we suspect will not be very soon. We do not recommend it to be memorized, or made a matter of formal recitation, so much as for a reading-book to be gone over by suitable classes, with such questions and suggestions as an intelligent teacher can impart. So used, its influence in schools cannot be otherwise than valuable.

Diseases of Modern Life. By B. W. Richardson, M. D., P. R. S. Pp. 520. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Price, $2.

We have already given some excerpts from advance-sheets of this book, which is just issued. Dr. Richardson was led to the treatment of the subject by having first given special attention to the diseases of overworked men. He printed some essays on this topic, and followed them by others on diseases induced by various occupations and by indulgence in the use of alcohol and tobacco. These articles, having undergone revision and considerable extension, make up the present volume. The author carefully abstains from infringing upon the proper art of curing disease which belongs to the medical practitioner, and confines himself mainly to the symptoms and causes of modern maladies, and to hints toward their prevention. While the book will not be without value to physicians, it is carefully adapted to the wants and capacity of general readers. We have simply to say that this volume is, in a high degree, both interesting and useful. It presents in a pleasant form, and with pointed applications, the sort of information that should be most widely distributed, and abounds in facta and suggestions of importance that cannot be readily obtained elsewhere.

Floral Decorations for the Dwelling-House. A Practical Guide to the Home Arrangement of Plants and Flowers. By Annie Hassard. American edition, revised. With many Illustrations. Pp. 166. New York: Macmillan & Co. Price, 1.50.

This little book, written by a person who evidently understands fully the art of floral decoration, will be found helpfully suggestive to all those who wish to make flowers accessory to the attractiveness of their homes.

The author aims, by both illustration and statement, to render the principles underlying her art so plain that any woman may tastefully and successfully decorate her table, adorn her drawing-room, and in some sense, by the use of plants around her windows and balconies, bring to the interior of home not only the beauty but the simple delights of the external garden. The whole subject of table-decoration, including forms of stands and vases, the arrangement of fruit and flowers, the adjustment of these to the light, materials and means for keeping flowers fresh, as well as window-gardening, hanging baskets, grouping of plants, wreaths, crosses, and even button-hole bouquets, find very instructive treatment in this little volume. It is shown how the simplest available materials—ferns, grasses, autumn leaves—no less than the richest products of the florist's art, may serve, in the hands of the skillful manipulator, to produce most graceful effects.

The chromatic principles of grouping are indicated in the following extract:

"In producing harmonious contrasts of colors, it should be remembered that there are only three primary colors—red, blue, and yellow. From these arise what are called the binary or secondary colors, namely, orange, composed of yellow and red; purple, composed of blue and red; and green, composed of yellow and blue. These form contrasting colors to the primary three with which they are in harmonious opposition, as the orange with blue, purple with yellow, and green with red. From the combination with these secondary colors arise three tertiary colors—olive, from purple and green; citron, from green and orange; and russet, from orange and purple. These tertiary colors harmonize with the primaries, as they stand in the relation of neutral tints to them, but are in harmonious opposition to the secondaries from which they are combined. Red, blue, and yellow, harmonize with each other, and they may be placed in juxtaposition, but purple should not be near red or blue, as it is composed of these two colors, the rule being that no primary color should be brought into contact with a secondary of which itself is a component part; nor any secondary color brought into contact with a tertiary color of which it is a component part."

Memoir and Correspondence of Caroline Herschel. By Mrs. John Herschel. With Portraits. Pp. 355. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Price, $1.75.

This is one of the most fresh and charming volumes that has come from the press in many a day. It is of such unique and special attraction that we have drawn upon it for the materials of two articles in the Monthly, which cannot fail to incite the reader to desire the perusal of the whole book. And it will amply repay the most careful reading. Aside from the interest at every step in the life of the remarkable woman who tells her own story in such a vivid and racy way, this biography will have permanent value as connected with the rise of modern sidereal astronomy, and as throwing light upon the characteristics of an illustrious scientific family. Telescopes, new planets, comets, double stars, and nebulæ, are always attractive things to read about, but what engages us most intently with these pages is that they overflow with human nature from beginning to end.

Analytical Processes; or, The Primary Principle of Philosophy. By William I. Gill, A. M. Pp. 483. New York: The Authors' Publishing Company. Price, $2.

The author of this book made his mark as an acute and independent thinker by the publication, a year or two since, of a volume called "Evolution and Progress." The present volume is the first of a series, each complete in itself, in which a fresh attempt will be made to construct a philosophy. No intimation is given as to what will be its character, the present book being occupied entirely with the foundation, and with only one element of that—the primary principle of all reasoning. This principle the author finds in the law of noncontradiction, which simply says to system-makers, "Be consistent, or do not contradict yourselves." Obvious as this principle is, we are told that in all ages it has been accepted or rejected alternately according to the exigencies of philosophical speculation, having been nullified by theologians and philosophers from Augustine to Kant. It therefore needs reëlucidation, to which Mr. Gill has devoted his volume. The book gives abundant scope for the exercise of philosophical genius, in which its author is not wanting. Our most eminent metaphysicians, as Drs. McCosh and Anderson, recognize his strong claims as a thinker, and we have no doubt his volume will attract the attention of serious students, and prove a valuable addition to American philosophical literature.

Military Map of the Indian Territory. Compiled by First-Lieutenant E. H. Ruffner, of the Engineers.

This valuable map, the preparation of which has occupied Lieutenant Ruffner and Mr. Ado Hunnius, draughtsman and engraver, for some three years, is based on Government and railroad surveys, previously-published maps, military surveys and reconnoissances, etc. The scale is made large enough for marching-purposes, and the topographical details are such as are needed in directing military movements. The task of compiling such a map as this of the Indian Territory is one that involves an enormous amount of labor, and it appears to have been performed with conscientious fidelity by Lieutenant Ruffner. The draughtsman's work is also deserving of great credit. The map is on the scale of 1:500,000.

We have received the initial number of The Home Scientist, published at Wadsworth, Ohio. The Home Scientist is a monthly, eight-page journal, in quarto, devoted to the diffusion of popular scientific knowledge. This first number, both in its original and in its selected matter, shows evidence of competent editorship. We wish it success. J. A. Clark, publisher. Terms, $1 per annum.

The Polytechnic Review.—We have received from the publishers the first number of a monthly periodical bearing the above title. In form it is a large quarto of twelve pages, tastefully printed on fine paper. The Review is designed to chronicle and illustrate the progress of science as applied to the useful arts, such as engineering in all its branches—civil, mechanical, naval, military, and sanitary; gas and water supply, and sewerage; chemical technology, with particular reference to mining, metallurgy, and manufacturing chemical industries; manufactures in general, and the mechanic arts. That the Polytechnic Review will be conducted with energy and ability, the names of the editors, William H. Wall, Ph. D., and Robert Grimshaw, Ph. D., are a sufficient guarantee. Philadelphia: Published by the editors, 119 South Fourth Street. $3 per annum.



Geological Survey of Alabama. Report of Progress for 1875. By Eugene A. Smith, Ph.D. Montgomery, Alabama, 1876. Pp. 212.

Memoirs of the Peabody Academy of Science, vol, i., No. iv. Fresh-Water Shell Mounds of the St. John's River, Florida. By Jeffries Wyman, Salem, Massachusetts. Pp. 87.

Statistics of Births, Marriages, and Deaths, in the City of Philadelphia for the Year 1874. Compiled by William H. Ford, M. D. Philadelphia, 1875. Pp. 133.

Experiments with the Alleged New Force. By George M. Beard, A. M., M. D., New York, 1876. Pp. 28.

Report of the Health-Officer of the City of Oakland, California, 1875. By George E. Sherman, M. D. Oakland, 1876. Pp .32.

Reports of the Trustees and Superintendent of the Butler Hospital for the Insane, Providence, 1876. Pp. 37.

Immobility or Closure of the Jaw, with Report of Cases. By W. F. Westmoreland, M. D. Atlanta, Georgia, 1875. Pp. 10.

The Public-School Question as underderstood by a Catholic-American Citizen and by a Liberal American Citizen. By Bishop McQuaid and Francis E. Abbott. Boston, 1876. Pp. 100.

Historical Sketch of the Columbus Public Schools. Columbus, Ohio. Pp. 31.

An Exposition and Defense of Homœpathy. By George Pyborn, M.D. Georgetown, Colorado, 1876. Pp. 36.

Legal Chemistry, A Guide to the Detection of Poisons, Examination of Stains, etc., as applied to Chemical Jurisprudence. By A. Naguet. Translated by J. P. Battershall, Nat. Sc.D., with a Preface by C. F. Chandler, Ph.D., M.D., LL.D. New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1876. Pp. 178. Price, $2.

Life Histories of the Birds of Eastern Pennsylvania. By Thomas G. Gentry. In Two Volumes. Vol. i. Philadelphia, 1876. Pp. 399.

Prehistoric Man. By Daniel Wilson. LL.D., F.R.S.E. In Two Volumes. London: Macmillan & Co., 1826. Pp. 391 and 401. Price, $12.

Report of the Chief Signal-Officer to the Secretary of War for the Year 1875. By Albert J. Meyer. Pp. 475. With numerous Maps.

Exercises in Electrical and Magnetic Measurement. By R. E. Day, M. A. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1876. Pp. 120.

Daily Bulletin of Weather Reports, Signal Service of the United States Army for April, 1875. Pp. 185.

Man a Spirit only. By R. L. Farnsworth. Pp. 48. St. Paul: Pioneer Press print.

Claims of Capital. By William Brown. Pp. 36. Montreal: J. Lovell.

Uses of a Topographical Survey of New York State. By J. T. Gardner: Pp. 14. New York: American Geographical Society.

Product of the Action of Potassium on Ethyl Succinate. By I. Remsen. Pp. 10. From American Journal of Science.

Hospital and Private Treatment of Ophthalmia Neonatorum. By S. C. Ayres, M.D. Pp. 8. From Lancet and Observer.

Climate in its Sanitary Relations to Medicine. By A. S. Baldwin, M.D. Pp. 14. Jacksonville, Fla.: Semi-Tropical print.

Report on Working-Women's Protective Union (1876). Pp. 16. New York: W. W. P. Union.

Astronomische Nachrichten. No. 206 Kiel: Königliche Sternwarte.

Training-School for Nurses. Pp. 16. Philadelphia: Grant, Faires & Rodgers print.

Principal Characters of the Dinocerata. By O. C. Marsh. Pp. 6. With Plates. From American Journal of Science.

Some Remains of an Extinct Species of Wolf. By J. A. Allen. Pp. 5. From American Journal of Science.

Doctrine of Force, and its Bearing upon Theism. By G. N. Duzan, M. D. Pp. 39. Indianapolis: J. G. Doughty print.

Memorial to Congress on the Currency, from the New York Board of Trade. Pp. 13.

Report on Chicago Botanical Garden (1875). Pp. 4.

Report of the Georgia Commissioners of Agriculture (1875). Pp. 180. Atlanta: Estill print.

Polytechnic Review. Vol. i., No. 1. Monthly, $3 per annum. Philadelphia: W. H. Wahl and Robert Grimshaw, proprietors.