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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 9/September 1876/Correspondence

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 9‎ | September 1876



To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly:

I HEREIN give you the outlines of a large-sized battle-axe, found in a thick bed of drift on the elevated surface of Rose or Cemetery Hill, Cumberland, Maryland. This locality is situated on the first plateau at the base of Will's Mountain, on the south side of Will's Creek, and east side of the mountain, and within the limits of the city of Cumberland.

The unassorted drift that spreads over this plateau for miles, and which lies about two hundred and fifty feet above the bed of

PSM V09 D638 Paleolithic axe blade 1.jpg
Fig. 1.A, pole; B, blade. Length from A to B. 10¾ inches; thickness from C to D, 2⅝ inches.

Will's Creek, varies in thickness from two to ten, and in some places twenty feet, and the point at which this implement of the Paleolithic age was found is about five or six feet beneath the original surface—the soil, gravel, sand, and water-worn bowlders having been carried over the declivity into Will's Creek by rains or other means.

This remarkably large relic of by-gone ages has a very sharp edge, compared with hundreds of the small Indian axes and hatchets, so called, found in many parts of this country. It weighs seven and a half pounds, measures eight and a half

PSM V09 D638 Paleolithic axe blade 2.jpg
Fig. 2.—A, pole; B, blade, edge very sharp from mark to mark +, then thickens abruptly; C C, thong-marks.
The lithological character of this relic of the Stone age is that of a dark-blue cherty, siliceous and coralline limestone of the Paleozoic age, and, possibly, of an upper silurian stratum, as it very much resembles some of those fossiliferous strata, and, in fact, presents on one side what very much resembles a large (but not very distinct) polyparium of the fossil coral lichenalia concentrica of Prof. Hall's "Paleontology of New York," vol. ii., Plate 37, A.

inches around the sharp edge of the blade; it is ten and a half inches long, seven and three-quarters inches across the widest part of the blade; is two and five-eighths inches through from side to side, and tapers gradually toward the pole to a sharp point, in a similar manner to the stone axes of the ancient Celtic tribes, so frequently found in some portions of England, Ireland, and Scotland.

On the plateau above named, bowlders of many hundred weight are thickly scattered, which could have been deposited in their present locality by floating ice only, and it is more than likely that this relic of the Primeval or Stone age was brought to this locality and deposited by the same agencies that brought the bowlders and other detritus, perhaps, from a very distant region.

The thong-marks for securing the handle are well preserved, but were deeper when first taken from the ground, as there was a full sixteenth of an inch of semi-decomposed material rubbed off in cleaning it up. The stone from which it has been made appears to have been a portion of one of those hard, cherty strata of coralline limestone, belonging to the Silurian formation, some of which are harder than flint, and almost as tough as iron. The implement, as it is now, is dark blue on one side, but lighter on the other. This lighter side appears to have yielded more readily to the action of the elements, decomposition having apparently removed at least a quarter of an inch more on this side than on the other, thus materially reducing the weight of the specimen. This battle-axe was found on January 4, 1876.William Andrews.

Cumberland, Maryland.



To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: In your notice of Mr. John Fiske's criticism of Dr. Draper's "Conflict" you have shown, plainly enough, that Dr. Draper's alleged superficiality consisted in using the word religion in the common sense.

That Dr. Draper's conceptions are so "crude" as to blind him to the higher and more spiritual conceptions which Mr. Fiske defines so admirably, or that he would consider religion, so defined, in antagonism with science, is an assertion which finds no warrant in his book. It would be easy, if it were worth while, to point to passages that explicitly negative such imputations. But to have adopted Mr. Fiske's rather transcendental refinement, and to have constantly used the qualified terms which it would require, would have been to sacrifice directness and brevity to a nicety of expression that none but the hypercritical would demand.

Your quotation shows that Mr. Spencer's "First Principles" must fall within the list of books which, "vitiated by this crude conception" (of antagonism), "cannot have much philosophical value;" and I beg to append another from a work which, it would seem, must come into the same class, although it is by an author evidently held in high esteem by Mr. Fiske:

"That harmony which we hope eventually to see established between our knowledge and our aspirations is not to be realized by the timidity which shrinks from logically following out either of the two apparently conflicting lines of thought—as in the question of matter and spirit—but by the fearlessness which pushes each to its inevitable conclusion. Only when this is recognized will the long and mistaken warfare between Science and Religion be exchanged for an enduring alliance."—(Fiske's "Cosmic Philosophy," vol. ii., p. 509.)

E. R. Leland.
Eauclaire, Wisconsin, July 20, 1876.


To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly:

Geometrical Chemistry. By Henry Wurtz. First, or Introductory Memoir. Re-printed from the American Chemist, for March, 1876. New York: John F. Trow & Son. 1876.

The author prefixes a Greek motto to his memoir, namely, the question, "Wherefore did Plato assert that the God worketh ever by geometry?" As the memoir contains no other geometry, this motto apparently is intended to justify the first half of the title.

But the other half has not even that much of a justification. From beginning to end it is impossible to detect a new principle or fact that properly belongs to chemistry in this memoir. The great chemical authorities of the memoir are Kant, Hegel, Stallo, and Sterry Hunt (p. 60). A new force, the Cratetic Force, is discovered, "which is not reciprocal, but absolute in its action upon the more electro-positive molecule, without reaction reaction upon the electro-negative one" (p. 69). Hence the equality of action and reaction must now be thrown to the resting-place of horror vacui and kindred errors.

Having reached the end of the memoir without encountering a single scientific result, I felt greatly relieved by the author's modest statement (p. 72): "I claim to have discovered and demonstrated the same grand geometrical laws which Kepler traced as ruling the planetary system, as prevailing also in the microcosms which we call molecules." And the author complacently continues: "I must add that, though many advanced chemists have long expected some great revelation from this source, yet now that a revelation has come, there are few even among the boldest and most original thinkers who will not be startled at the sweeping, in some respects revolutionary, tendency of these developments, with regard to the current theories of the schools and the school-books."

I confess to have indeed been thoroughly "startled" to see such a paper as this printed in extenso in the American Chemist; and not much less astonished to find it recently (May 27, 1876) partly reprinted in the Engineering and Mining Journal, accompanied by a highly-laudatory editorial, wherein Dr. T. Sterry Hunt is reported to have expressed the opinion that "Prof. Wurtz has surprised Nature in one of her secrets, and has enunciated a law which is probably as important as the law of the force of gravity."

It is simply because these high and unqualified indorsements are likely to give the vagaries of "Geometrical Chemistry" currency in the popular scientific press of the country that I take the trouble to expose the palpable fallacy of the whole fabric.

The inorganic chemical compounds contain oxygen as the most general constituent, while the organic compounds contain as generally carbon. Hence, if we were to mystify some of our chemical colleagues, not very sound in elementary mathematics, we would calculate the densities of all compounds by assuming almost any fixed atomic volume for these two elements, and assigning the residual volume to the other constituents. By a liberal use of arbitrary multiples, these residual volumes could then be very readily expressed as cubes (or almost any other function) of whole numbers with so great an approximation that inversely the calculated density of the compound must be almost identical with any[1] of the observed values of the same. Such a process, when presented by a sufficiently funny man in Section Q of the American Association, would be very entertaining; but when such a thing occupies twenty quarto pages in the American Chemist, and when voluminous extracts thereof in other scientific journals are printed as embodying great chemical progress, I feel that American science has been disgraced.

Prof. Wurtz in the above mystification proves himself not even sufficiently master of arithmetical puns to keep the variations of the positive elements (the above residual) within bounds. A slightly more dexterous use of the convenient arbitrary multiples would have helped him out, and yielded numerous new "laws." Thus the hydrogen diameter ranges from 16 to 28, that is, in volume it ranges as the cubes of these numbers, from 4,096 to 21,952, in proportion of one to five in closely-allied compounds! In very closely-related compounds of aluminium the diameter of aluminium varies from 16 to 45, its volume therefore from 4,096 to 91,125, or in the proportion of one to twenty-two! (See pp. 54-57.)

Space forbids my entering upon a more detailed exposé of this crude display of indeterminate analysis. The whole thing is so utterly worthless, so absolutely destitute of every gleam of science, so horridly uncouth even in its verbal exposition, that this short notice is most reluctantly given, simply to protest, in the name of American science, against the filling of our scientific journals with material that exposes us to the ridicule of the scientific world.

Gustavus Hinrichs.
Iowa City, Iowa, July 21, 1876.

  1. The influence of impurities, etc., is coolly ascribed to arbitrary variations in atom-diameter and varying multiples in the molecule; this is done even for minerals and metals! I wonder that Mr. Raymond did not see the absurdity of the whole process. See, for example, "Siderite," p. 82, or in fact any substance for which more than one density has been used.