Scientific American, Volume XXXVI., No. 8, February 24, 1877
Author: Various
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Vol. XXXVI.—No. 8. [NEW SERIES.]

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VOL. XXXVI., No. 8. [NEW SERIES.] Thirty-second Year. NEW YORK, SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 1877.

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(Illustrated articles are marked with an asterisk.)

Academy of Sciences, New York. 117 Answers to correspondents. 123 Arts, lost, in New York. 113 Augers and drills (16). 123 Bain, Alexander. 121 Blue glass deception, the. 113 Blue glass science. 121 Boilers for small engines (2,14). 123 Business and personal. 123 Caffeone. 114 Chromate of lime, acid (18). 123 Circle problem, the three (8). 123 Clock collector, a. 119 Coal, burning small (19). 123 Cremation temple, proposed*. 119 Dark days (11). 123 Dates and the date palm*. 111 Diseases, infections. 121 Dyeing process, a cold (9). 123 Engines for boats (12). 123 Floors, filling for hardwood (6). 123 Friction at rest (15). 123 Frost plant of Russia, the*. 116 Glass making, toughened. 121 Greenhouses, tar paint in (3). 123 Harness cockeye, improved*. 118 Heating ranges (17). 123 Heating rooms (7). 123 Hemi-plunger, the.* 115 Hens, Leghorn. 114 Ink, purple marking. 117 Iron trade in England. 117 Laboratory manipulations. 117 Lathe chuck.* 118 Lathe, screw-cutting.* 118 Lead, sea water and. 119 Moneyed men. 122 Mortar, black (10). 123 New books and publications. 122 Ornaments in winter, natural. 118 Papin's steam engine.* 120 Patent decision, a. 115 Patent matters in Washington. 116 Patent office annual report. 117 Patents, American and foreign. 122 Patents, official list of. 124 Planing mill machinery. 115 Posterity, for—a suggestion. 112 Railroad, the Wetli mountain.* 114 Rock sections for microscopy. 117 Roofs, leaky slate (1). 123 Rose bushes, soot for. 119 Salicylic acid for the feet. 115 Sawdust in rough casting. 114 Seed-distributing panthers. 111 Self-reliance and success. 121 Snow a fertilizer. 119 Something to do. 121 Spectroscope prisms (11). 123 Steam engine, Papin's. 120 Steam engine, the Brown. 120 Suicide statistics. 116 Telegraph, the speaking. 120 Trolling hook, improved*. 114 Watch, position of a (13). 123 Waterproofing, suint for. 114 White color in animals. 114 Wire, crossing a river on a. 121 Wool, purifying. 114 Zinc roofs (4). 123

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I. ENGINEERING AND MECHANICS.—Artificial Production of Ice by Steam Power—The American Roller Skate Rink, Paris, 1 engraving.—The Little Basses Light House, 4 figures.—The Souter Point Electric Light.—On the Minute Measurements of Modern Science, by ALFRED MAYER.—Method of Measuring by Means of the Micrometer Screw furnished with the Contact Level; Method of Electric Contact Applied to Measurements with the Micrometer Screw, 2 engravings.—Abstracts from Report of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers on the Metric System.—New Turret Musical and Chiming Clock for the Bombay University, with 1 page of engravings.—Water Gas and its advantages, by GEO. S. DWIGHT.—Brattice Cloths in Mines.—Eight Horse Power Portable Steam Engine, with dimensions, particulars, and 1 page of engravings.—Clyde Ship Building and Marine Engineering in 1876.—Four Masted Ships.—New Bridges at and near New York city.—The Sutro Tunnel.—Independent Car Wheels.—Passenger Travel, New York city.

II.—TECHNOLOGY.—Design for Iron Stairway, and Iron Grilles, with 3 engravings.—The Process of Micro-photography used in the Army Medical Department.—Direct Positives for Enlarging.—A Monster Barometer.—Architectural Science, Carpentry Queries and Replies.—The Carpet Manufactures of Philadelphia. How the Centre Selvage is Formed, 3 figures.—Glass of the Ancients.—On the Preservation of Meat; a resume of the various methods now practiced.—California Pisciculture.—Savelle's System of Distillation, 2 engravings.—New Bromine Still, by W. ARVINE, 1 engraving.—The Phoenix Steam Brewery, New York.—French Cognac Distillation, 1 engraving.—Schwartz's Sugar Refinery, London. General description of the establishment.—Vienna Bread and Coffee.—How Pictorial Crystals are Produced and Exhibited.

III. LESSONS IN MECHANICAL DRAWING. New Series. By Professor C.W. MACCORD; with several engravings.

IV. ELECTRICITY, LIGHT, HEAT, SOUND, ETC.—Magnetic Action of Rotatory Conductors.—The Sensation of Sound.—Sympathetic Vibration of Pendulums.—Protection from Lightning.—Musical Tones, photograph of.

V. MEDICINE, HYGIENE, ETC.—On the Treatment of Typhoid Fevers. By ALFRED L. LOOMIS, M.D.—Hydrophobia Cured by Oxygen.—The efficacy of Lymph, by M. HILLER.—Success of Chloral Hydrate for Scalds and Burns.—Uses of Cyanide of Zinc.—Dr. Brown-Sequard on Nerve Disease.

VI. MISCELLANEOUS.—Geological Notes.—A Geological Congress.—The last Polar Expedition.—Old Men of Science.—Pre-glacial Men.—Post-glacial period, Esthonia.—Northern Pacific Formations.

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Even those whose knowledge of the customs of the Orient extends no further than a recollection of the contents of that time-honored story book, the "Arabian Nights," are doubtless aware that, since time immemorial, the date has been the chief food staple of the desert-dwellers of the East. The "handful of dates and gourd of water" form the typical meal and daily sustenance of millions of human beings both in Arabia and in North Africa, and to this meager diet ethnologists have ascribed many of the peculiar characteristics of the people who live upon it. Buckle, who finds in the constant consumption of rice among the Hindoos a reason for the inclination to the prodigious and grotesque, the depression of spirits, and the weariness of life manifest in that nation, likewise considers that the morbid temperament of the Arab is a sequence of vegetarianism. He points out that rice contains an unusual amount of starch, namely, between 83 and 85 per cent; and that dates possess precisely the same nutritious substances as rice does, with the single difference that the starch is already converted into sugar. To live, therefore, on such food is not to satisfy hunger; and hunger, like all other cravings, even if partially satisfied, exercises control over the imagination. "This biological fact," says Peschel, "was and still is the origin of the rigid fastings prescribed by religions so widely different, which are made use of by Shamans in every quarter of the world when they wish to enter into communication with invisible powers." Peschel and Buckle, however, are at variance as to the influence of the date diet as affecting a race; and the former remarks that, "while no one will deny that the nature of the food reacts upon the mental powers of man, the temperament evoked by different sorts is different;" yet "we are still far from having ascertained anything in regard to the permanent effects of daily food, especially as the human stomach has, to a great degree, the power of accommodating itself to various food substances, so that with use even narcotics lose much of their effect." The same author also adds that the date "trains up independent and warlike desert tribes, which have not the most remote mental relationship to the rice-eating Hindoos."

It remains for the reader to reconcile this disagreement of learned doctors according to his own judgment. The evidence of those who subsist on the date is certainly overwhelming in its favor. The Assyrians, tradition says, asserted that it was such a great gift to them that its worth could not be too extravagantly told; for they had found, for the leaves, the fruit, the juices, and the wood of the tree, three hundred and sixty different uses. The Mohammedans adopt the date palm into their religion as an emblem of uprightness, and say that it miraculously sprang into existence, fully grown, at the command of the Prophet. Palm branches still enter as symbols of rejoicing into Christian religious ceremonies; and throughout Palestine constant reference is found to the date and the palm in the naming of towns. Bethany means "a house of dates." Ancient Palmyra was a "city of palms," and the Hebrew female name Tamar is derived from the word in that language signifying palm. In Africa there is an immense tract of land between Barbary and the great desert named Bilidulgerid, "the land of dates," from the profusion of the trees there growing.

In this country, the date as an article of food is classed with the prune, the fig, and the tamarind, to be used merely as a luxury. We find it coming to the markets at just about this time of year in the greatest quantities, packed in baskets roughly made from dried palm leaves. The dates, gathered while ripe and soft, are forced into these receptacles until almost a pasty mass, often not over clean, is formed. Their natural sugar tends to preserve them; but after long keeping they become dry and hard. This renders them unfit for use; but they still find a sale to the itinerant vendors who, after steaming them to render them soft (of course at the expense of the flavor), hawk them about the streets. Dates in the pasty condition are not relished by those who live on them; nor, on the other hand, would we probably fancy the dried, almost tasteless fruit which, strung on long straws, is carried in bunches by the Arabs in their pouches.

The date palm (phoenix dactylifera) is the most important species of the dozen which make up its genus. Though slow in growth, it shoots up a magnificent stem, to the height sometimes of eighty feet, the summit of which is covered with a graceful crown of pinnated leaves. The trunk is exceedingly rough and spiny; the flower spathes, which appear in the axils of the leaves, are woody, and contain branched spadices with many flowers; more than 11,000 have been counted on a single male spadix. As the flowers are dioecious, it is necessary to impregnate the female blossoms artificially in order to insure a good crop; and to this end the male spadices are cut off when the pollen is ripe and carefully shaken over the female ones. At from six to ten years of age, the tree bears, and then remains fruitful for upward of 200 years. An excellent idea of the palm in full bearing may be obtained from our illustration, which represents the mode of gathering the dates, of which a single tree will often yield from one to four hundredweight in a season. The fruit varies much in size and quality; and in the oases of the Sahara forty-six varieties have been named.

The utilizations of the date palm and its products are very numerous. The stem yields starch, and timber for houses, boats, fences, fuel, etc., as well as an inferior kind of sago. The leaves serve as parasols and umbrellas, and for material for roof covering, baskets, brushes, mats, and innumerable utensils. At their base is a fiber, which is spun into excellent rope. When the heart of the leaf is cut, a thick honey-like juice exudes, which, by fermentation, becomes wine (the "toddy" of India), or vinegar, and is also boiled down into sugar. The young shoots, when cooked, resemble asparagus; and the dates themselves are dried and ground into meal, from which bread is prepared.

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It is well known that bees carry pollen from flower to flower, and that eggs of marine animals are often carried long distances in the stomachs of aquatic birds. A very curious instance of this kind, showing how vegetable species may be diffused by means which no botanist, however acute, would be likely to think of, is mentioned by Mr. Alfred Smee, who states that, attached to the skin of a panther recently shot in India, were found numerous seeds, each of which had two perfect hooks, manifestly designed to attach themselves to foreign bodies. As the panther moved about it collected the seeds on the skin and carried them about wherever it went; but when it rubbed against the shrubs, it of necessity brushed some off, and thus distributed them. One of the seeds produced a handsome plant, and beautiful clusters of tubular flowers. It was immediately recognized to be the Martynia diandra—a plant which, although introduced into England as far back as 1731, has scarcely ever been cultivated, although it has been commented on by botanists and other writers.

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The Irish gentleman who declined to aid an enterprise for the benefit of posterity, remarking that posterity had never done anything for him, was, after all the sport made of him, no unfair representative of the bulk of mankind. There is talk enough about doing great things for the advantage of future ages, but the real motive is apt to be something very different. To perpetuate their own name or fame, men or nations often set up lasting monuments, and sometimes unintentionally convey thereby to after times a few more or less instructive indications of the artistic or industrial skill of their day and generation. To further their own immediate ends, or to secure some benefit to their immediate descendants, men frequently undertake great material enterprises, and sometimes the work so done remains for ages the source of perennial good. But very rarely, if ever, can it be said that any work of man was undertaken solely, or even chiefly, for the benefit of posterity—more rarely still, for remote posterity.

Hence it happens that we owe far more to accident, to fire, rapine, volcanic outbursts, and the protecting care of desolation, for the knowledge we have of times long past, than to any intentional legacies of art or learning left us by the men of those times. The lost and abandoned tools, weapons, and ornaments of the stone age are all that we have to tell us of the childhood of humanity. Had no fiery disasters ever overtaken the pile-dwellers of the Swiss lakes, we should probably have never heard of such a people.

To the mud and ashes of Vesuvius, rather than to the historians of the Roman Empire, we owe the best of our knowledge of how Roman cities looked and Roman citizens lived eighteen hundred years ago. In the fragments of a terra cotta library, buried in the ruins of a royal palace, we find almost our only records of the arts and sciences of ancient Assyria. Under the ash heaps of a forgotten age, in Cyprus, Cesnola finds the only known vestiges of a primitive civilization, reaching far back into the domain of mythology. Thanks to the destroyers of Troy and Mycenae, and the protective care of temporary oblivion, Schliemann is now able to verify tradition and lay before an astonished and delighted world numerous precious relics of heroic ages hitherto remembered only in song.

Who can estimate the value of these and similar findings to us—the value of the revelations they bring of man's condition in those remote ages? Who can say how many or how few the ages will be ere the time comes when the antiquaries of the future will be rejoicing over equally fragmentary vestiges of the doings and possessions of our day?

On the other hand, who can estimate the value of the knowledge lost beyond hope of recovery, or the checks to human progress experienced, in the repeated wiping out, so to speak, of the higher races and the civilizations they embodied? And who can say that similar disasters may not come again and again to humanity?

Suppose a pestilence peculiarly fatal to the white race should fall upon the world to-day, crippling, perhaps exterminating, the now dominant civilized nations; how long would the material elements of our science and art or general culture remain with power to enlighten the barbarous tribes that would inherit the earth? Human progress has more than once been set back for centuries by such natural or unnatural causes, leaving the sites of once splendid civilizations to be overrun with barbaric hordes knowing nothing of the better times that went before.

Suppose, again, that, by one of those geologic changes so numerous in the history of our unstable globe, the existing continents should sink a thousand feet. Every center of modern civilization would be submerged. The great social and political organizations of humanity would be broken up, and in the wreck of nations that would ensue very little of the glory and culture of the race could survive. The earth is dotted with vestiges of lost and forgotten empires. Can we reasonably assume, in the face of such facts, that the nations of to-day are immortal?

The question is: Shall we continue to trust to chance, as all other civilizations have, for the preservation of the conquests we have made among the forces and secrets of nature; or shall we do something positive for posterity, and leave the ages to come some certain and abiding legacy of our treasures of art and learning?

It may be that human progress will go on and on to the end of time without a break; that in the course of centuries mankind will surpass us in civilization, knowledge and power, as much as we surpass the earliest and rudest men we have yet found traces of: maybe infinitely more.

In such a case, what would not the scholars of, say the year 5000 A.D., or any other future age, be willing to give for a comprehensive picture of humanity as it exists to-day—for a reasonably complete library of our literature, science, and art? We may safely assume that nothing of the sort will be possible if matters are left to take their natural course. By that time every structure, every machine, every book, every work of art, now in use or stored away in our libraries and galleries of art, will have disappeared, a prey to time, the elements, or the more destructive violence of man.

On the other hand, it may be that, through repeated disasters of one sort or another, mankind, three thousand years hence, will have lost all the knowledge men ever possessed, and be slowly struggling upward for the hundredth time from inherited barbarism. In such a case, what enormous benefits might not accrue to man from a fortunate opening up of the wealth of knowledge we possess!

In any supposable case between these extremes of progress or degradation, a legacy of art and learning, such as we might easily set apart for remote posterity, would certainly be acceptable, perhaps extremely useful. Besides, it might be possible for us to set such a worthy example to those who shall come after us that, come what might, humanity would never be left absolutely void of the means of instruction, nor any worthy human achievement be absolutely lost or forgotten. The experience of these later years has demonstrated the value of such legacies even when unintentional, unselected, and wretchedly fragmentary. It has made clear also how a legacy deliberately made may be indefinitely preserved.

Roughly outlined, the carrying out of such a truly philanthropic enterprise would involve nothing more difficult than—

First. The construction of a practically indestructible treasure chamber in some secure place; and

Second. The preparation of a library well calculated to withstand the corroding tooth of time.

Two kinds of structures would meet the first demand—massive pyramids of covered earth or of solid masonry, or chambers hewn from the heart of some granitic hill. In low latitudes, where glacial action is not to be feared, the pyramidal form might be preferable: in more northern regions the rock-cut chamber would probably be at once cheaper and more durable. In either case, an elevated site should be chosen as a safeguard against submergence.

To secure the permanence of the records would be more difficult. Ordinary books and papers would clearly be unsuitable for long keeping; though for comparatively limited periods they might answer if securely packed in airtight waterproof cases. Nothing liable to spontaneous decay should be admitted. Stereotype plates of metal would be even more open to objection than printed sheets. The noble metals would be too costly, the baser would corrode; and with either the value of the plates as metal would be a standing danger to the deposit. The material basis of the library must be, as nearly as possible, worthless for other uses (to insure them against the natural greed of man), yet such as will hold the records sharply and faithfully under all circumstances. The terra cotta tablets of ancient Assyria are instructive in this connection. Possibly plates of artificial stone, or sheets of a papier-mache-like preparation of asbestos, might be less bulky and equally durable.

Having determined this point, and dug from the solid rock a chamber for the reception of our legacy, the next step would be the selection of its contents. Obviously the books to be preserved should embrace first of all lexicons and grammars of every known form of speech, since it is impossible to tell which of the dialects of to-day will be the parents of the dominant tongue of any distant future time; while we may be practically certain that some one or more of the languages of to-day will furnish a key to any language that men will ever use. Next in order would come encyclopaedias, the most comprehensive and complete that there might be room for. The sacred books of all nations might come next; then the works of the great poets, historians and novelists; after them, the best obtainable records of art, science, the various industries, and so on, with specimens of the best and most typical of our works of art, manufacture, and the like.

The spaces between the various articles should be filled in with some insoluble and neutral substance, to prevent corrosion, or the infiltration of water and consequent damage to the plates. Then, the entrance to the chamber being securely sealed, permanent records should be made in many places and in various ways, setting forth the purpose of the deposit, its exact location, and the nature of its contents. Among such records not the least valuable would be deeply cut polyglot inscriptions on natural cliffs in different parts of the world, observation having shown that such records may remain to challenge human curiosity for ages after all other records of their time have disappeared.

Even a single deposit of this sort might prove of enormous value to the race at some critical period of its history. But the probability is that the good work would not end with one deposit. From age to age this and other nations might repeat the experiment, commemorating in this way important epochs in their history. The fashion once set might easily become a permanent feature of all great national celebrations. The cost would be comparatively small: a penny contribution from each of the visitors to the Philadelphia Exhibition, for example, would have been quite sufficient to provide for a memorial of our first Centennial year that would have carried an imperishable picture of the civilization of the day to the end of—our first millennium, at least; and we may safely infer that, whatever may be the condition of the world at that not very remote epoch, a memorial of that sort would be something worth having.

As we have intimated, the custom might easily become general, so that in the course of ages the earth would become dotted with such repositories of art and learning. Then, come what might to humanity—whatever might be the ups and downs of nations—whatever moral, social, or intellectual advances mankind might make—whatever lapses or disasters might befall them—it could hardly happen that a knowledge of any considerable period of human history, or the advantage of any worthy human achievement, could ever be permanently blotted out and lost.

It is true that "posterity" has never done anything of the sort for us. It is true that "posterity" may have no valid claim on us for such a legacy. But we might venture to make "posterity" a present! It would not cost us much, and it might turn out to be immensely valuable and useful to some far future age.

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While the objects of ancient art contained in the Castellani collection, recently placed on exhibition in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in this city, are individually of great rarity and archaeological value, they derive additional importance from the fact that, viewed conjunctively as a collection, they represent connected histories of two great industrial arts extending over many centuries. Both in the work of the goldsmith and of the potter, we are enabled to trace progress from the earliest stages up to a period when the greatest skill was attained, and even subsequently into the era of decadence. In both industries, we find that ancient and mediaeval workmen possessed knowledge which we do not possess; and among Signor Castellani's treasures may be seen handiwork which is the embodiment of two lost arts, the secrets of which the modern world, with all its infinitely superior wisdom, has not yet rediscovered.

The productions, in the Castellani collection, of precious metal workers dating from prehistoric epochs, the exact dates of which are wholly unknown, and covering the long period ending in the thirteenth century, are represented by the contents of some twenty cases. The first three of these receptacles bear no dates. The ornaments which they contain are of bronze, amber, silver, and glass (the latter having become converted into opalescent silicic acid), and were found in Praeneste (modern Palestrina, Italy), and in the territory which was ancient Etruria. Case No. 4 bears date 700 B.C., and here is a rich treasure of primitive Etruscan and Phoenician ornaments of gold, adorned with granulated work. Signor Castellani considers that the workmanship of these objects is so perfect that it is impossible at the present time to explain the process of execution, and very difficult to imitate it. The ornaments are of two kinds—those for ordinary use and those for funereal purposes. The first are massive, and might be worn for years without injury; the others are extremely delicate. All are made of the purest gold, and their decoration evinces the most consummate skill and taste on the part of the artist. There is, for example, a small flask, shaped something like an antique wine jar, and about five inches in height. It is of beaten gold, and is covered with a pattern intended to imitate the similarly shaped designs of variegated glass of the Graeco-Phoenician period. This pattern is entirely produced by minute globules of metal soldered to the surface in tiers of zigzag or Vandyke patterns. Another specimen is a strip of gold covered with granulated lines and bearing a row of birds in relief. On other ornaments are exquisitely carved heads and flowers, produced apparently by hammering on the reverse of the object, but with a delicacy and precision of touch which is simply marvelous.

The closest students of this ancient handiwork are entirely at a loss to understand how the processes of melting, soldering, and wire drawing, which were employed in the art, were performed. Modern workmen have failed in their attempts exactly to imitate the old ornaments; and it is certain that the secret of the mechanical agents, whereby it was possible to separate and join pieces of gold hardly perceptible to the naked eye, is lost. Signor Castellani has taken great pains to solve the problem, reading all the treatises of mediaeval goldsmiths, inquiring of all classes of Italian jewelers, and experimenting with all kinds of chemicals, in the hope of finding the solder wherewith the minute grains were attached to the surface of the metal. At last he found some of the old processes still employed in a remote district, hidden in the recesses of the Apennines, far from the great towns. Bringing away a few workmen, he gave them much more instruction, and at last succeeded, not perhaps in equalling, but certainly in rivalling the ancient productions.

We question whether the Etruscans used fire at all in their soldering, as it would be almost an impossibility to keep the excessively fine tools necessary for the work at a proper heat. Mr. Joshua Rose offers the plausible suggestion that a cold flux was employed, with which the workman followed the lines or dots of his pattern. Then the gold granules were possibly sprinkled over the surface, and adhered only to the solder, the superfluous grains being brushed off after the solder had set.

There is also a fragment of a finely woven fabric, made of threads of pure gold, found on the body of a woman in a tomb at Metapontum. This is without doubt the material to which the Psalmist refers in speaking of "the King's daughter" having "clothing of wrought gold;" and in the Pentateuch there is reference to gold threads being used upon looms.

As we follow the various objects in the twenty cases above mentioned, the decline of the goldworker's art when the use of enamels came into vogue is evidenced. Continuing on to later periods, the decadence is more marked under the successors of Alexander. In Rome, under the emperors, we find gold used as a mere setting for precious stones, and finally the collection terminates with examples of workmanship of the time of Charlemagne, when the workmen had lost their cunning, and the noble metal had been altogether debased to secondary uses.

The second instance where a lost art is exemplified in Signor Castellani's collection is in the glazing of the Gubbio majolica. We have not space here to review the magnificent series of ancient specimens of pottery in detail; and thus it will suffice to say that, beginning with some of the earliest pieces made by the Arabs when they occupied Sicily, from the twelfth to the sixteenth century, the collection presents examples of all the finest types of later mediaeval art. Gubbio, where the peculiar kind of majolica above noted was made, is a small town once in the territory of the dukes of Urbino; and in the sixteenth century it became famous for its pottery. This was attributable to the talent of one man, Giorgio Andreoli, who is reputed to have invented the wonderful luster characteristic of the Gubbio ware. The body of majolica is mere common clay; and after the piece is finished on the wheel, it is dried and burnt in a furnace. After the biscuit thus prepared has been dipped in the glaze, the colors are applied on the soft surface of the latter, and the vitrifying process fuses all into a glossy enamel of the color of the pigment. This is still the common practice; and we mention it merely to show that to his pigment and glaze Andreoli must have added some third substance, which rendered the enamel capable of reflecting white light as blue, red, green, or yellow light—in other words, of giving the object a luster of a color wholly different from the tints of the pigment. He evidently could produce any desired color at will, and the effects gained are indescribably beautiful. The Castellani collection contains 130 superb specimens, which glow like jewels. In one, the scene of the nativity of Christ is provided with the figures in low relief, and the exquisite cerulean lustre is imparted to give the effect of moonlight. The rarest pieces are those of which the luster is a delicate green. Some blaze with yellow, as if of gold; others exhibit the brilliancy of the ruby; while others resemble the interior of the pearl oyster shell. Whether this sheen is produced by polarization of the light in some manner, or whether it is at all analogous to fluorescence, is yet to be decided. The impression of the surface with fine microscopic lines might produce an iridescence, but not separate and clearly defined hues. The ware was intended for ornamental purposes, not for household use; and it was suspended against the rich, dark tapestries of the period with which walls were covered, thus aiding, as it were, in illuminating the apartment with its exquisite radiance.

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On September 26, 1871, General A.J. Pleasonton, of Philadelphia, Pa., obtained a patent for "utilizing the natural light of the sun transmitted through clear glass, and the blue or electric(!) solar rays transmitted through blue, purple, or violet colored glass, or its equivalent, in the propagation and growth of plants and animals." In his specification, of which the above constitutes one claim, he states that he has discovered "special and specific efficacy in the use of this combination of the caloric rays of the sun and the electric blue light in stimulating the glands of the body, the nervous system generally, and the secretive organs of man and animals." He also states that he finds that vegetation is vastly improved by the transmitted blue light. These alleged re-discoveries—for the General only claims to have devised the method of utilizing them—were extensively promulgated through the press early in 1871. Subsequently, in 1876, General Pleasonton published a book on the subject, the volume being appropriately bound in blue and printed in blue ink. Recently public attention has again been called to the subject by a New York daily journal. The peculiar kind of glass in question is known as "pot metal blue," that is, it is stained a bluish violet throughout, and is not clear glass covered with flashings of blue glass. It is used in greenhouses, etc., in connection with clear glass; and in General Pleasonton's grapery it appears that only every eighth row of panes was blue. Some of the results alleged to have been obtained by exposing animals and plants are as follows: Twenty grape vines, in their second year, after being set out under the blue glass, bore 1,200 lbs. of splendid fruit. A very weak Alderney bull calf was in four months developed into a strong and vigorous bull. Heifers when kept under blue glass may safely bear young when 18 months old. A weak child, weighing but 31/2 lbs. at birth, weighed at the end of four months 22 lbs.—the light in this instance having come through blue curtains. Two major-generals with rheumatism were cured in three days. A young lady whose hair had come out regained her tresses; and to these must be added various other cures of severe ailments which we have not space here to recapitulate. The above are the alleged facts; and we propose to consider the supposed discovery in the light of previous investigations.

With reference to the theories of electricity, etc., advanced by General Pleasonton to account for his phenomena, their absurdity is so complete that we shall waste no time over them. The important question in the matter, and the only one in which the public is interested, is whether or not blue glass is capable of producing all or any of the results imputed to its use. In order to clear the way for the examination of the investigations, the records of which we have carefully collected, let us consider first those which General Pleasonton quotes in support of his views. These are (1) Seunebier's researches, which go to show that the blue and violet rays are the most active in determining the decomposition of carbonic acid in plants, and (2) experiments of Dr. Morichini, repeated by Carpa and Ridolfi, proving that violet rays magnetized a small needle. The first statement has been totally disproved. Dr. Von Bezold, in his recent work on color, states that "the chemical processes in plants, as far as they are dependent upon light, are principally caused by the rays of medium and of lower refrangibility. The development of the green color of the chlorophyll, the decomposition of carbonic acid, as well as the formation of starch, etc., in the grains of the chlorophyll, are induced by the red, green, and orange rays." The blue, violet, and ultra violet rays, the same authority goes onto explain, influence "the rapidity of growth, compel the so-called zooespores to move in certain directions, and alter the positions of leaves, etc." In confirmation of this, we have Sach's experiments in 1872, which show that light, transmitted through the yellow solution of potassium chromate, enables green leaves to decompose over 88 per cent. of carbonic acid; while that passed through blue ammonia copper oxide decomposes less than 8 per cent. This proves the superiority of the yellow ray to decompose carbonic acid; and this fact Professor J.W. Draper discovered a long time ago by the direct use of the spectrum. In still further confirmation, we may cite the investigations of Vogel, Pfeiffer, Selim, and Placentim. The last three have conducted researches in full knowledge of those of General Pleasonton, and their experiments show that yellow rays are more promotive of the evolution of carbon in animals and its absorption in plants than any others in the spectrum, the violet rays having least power in these respects, with the exception of the red rays in the case of animals. The absorption of carbonic acid by plants, and its evolution by animals, we hardly need add, are prime essentials to the growth and health of each. The notion that light possesses a magnetizing power on steel was upset by Niepce de St. Victor in 1861. After removing every source of error, he "found it impossible to make one sewing needle, solarized for a very long time under the rays of light concentrated by a strong lens, attract another suspended by a hair, whether the light was white or colored by being made to pass through a violet-colored glass."

We can proceed further and even show that violet light is in some respects hurtful to plants. Cailletet, for example, says in 1868 that "light which was passed through a solution of iodine in carbonic disulphide prevents decomposition altogether." Baudrimont says that "no colored light permits vegetables to go through all the phases of their evolutions. Violet-colored light is positively injurious to plants; they absolutely require white light." This scientist instituted the most elaborate experiments on the subject, ranging over 11 years, from 1850 to 1861; and the result of all his labor may be summed up in the simple statement that no illumination which human ingenuity can devise is so well adapted for promoting natural processes as the pure white light provided by the Creator. So much by way of general denial of the claims of superior efficacy residing in blue light of any kind.

Now we have yet to examine the peculiar variety of blue light here used. Sunlight can, by means of the prism, be split into colored rays, any one of which we may isolate, and so obtain a certain colored light. Similarly we may obtain light of a desired color by the use of a colored glass which will stop out the rays not of the hue required. So that we may obtain violet light from the spectrum or by filtering sunlight through violet glass. When, however, Dr. Von Bezold, as above, asserts that the violet rays have such and such an effect, he means the violet of the spectrum, which has its specific duty to perform in the compound light of which it is a necessary portion. But the violet light of the spectrum and filtered violet sunlight are altogether different things. The first, as our valued contributor Dr. Van der Weyde has very clearly pointed out, is "a homogeneous color containing, besides the luminous, the invisible chemical rays without any caloric rays; while the light colored by passing through violet glass is a mixture of blue rays with the red rays at the other end of the spectrum; and it contains a quantity of the chemical rays belonging to the blue and the caloric rays belonging to the red. In fact, violet glass passes a light identical with sunlight, only much reduced in power, containing but a portion of its caloric, chemical, and luminous agency: being simply deprived of its strongest rays." And this the spectroscope has clearly demonstrated. Reduced to its simplest terms, then, the necessary conclusion is that the violet glass acts purely as a shade for decreasing the intensity of the solar light. And in the simple fact that it does so serve as a shade lies the sole virtue (if any there be) of the glass. In 1856, Dr. Daubeny made experiments on the germination of seeds, and in his report is this suggestive sentence: "In a south aspect, indeed, light which had passed through the ammonia sulphate of copper (blue solution), and even darkness itself, seemed more favorable than the whole of the spectrum; but this law did not seem to extend to the case of seeds placed in a northern aspect where the total amount of light was less considerable."

In our next issue, we shall review the effects of light and darkness upon the animal organization, and endeavor to account for the curing of diseases and the production of other phenomena which have been erroneously ascribed to the influence of the blue filtered sunlight.

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Among the various means proposed of late years for building lines of railroad on the steep slopes of mountains, that of M. Wetli, of Zurich, Switzerland, has attracted considerable attention from European engineers. We have already laid before our readers the system of central toothed rails used on the Righi and other mountain roads in Europe. In the Wetli system, instead of this rail and the pinion on the vehicle engaging it, there is a drum having a helicoidal thread which engages with triangular rails. This drum is attached to the locomotive. The construction will be readily understood from the illustrations given herewith, which we take from La Nature. The thread on the drum is precisely that which would be formed could a rail similar to one of the central angular rails be wrapped around it; so that it always is in contact with the mid rails, and necessarily prevents any bodily sliding or rolling of the vehicles over the regular track when the drum is held motionless. The V-shaped mid rails are securely fastened to horizontal iron ties, which rest on wooden traverses. The angle of the V is 50 deg.; the distance between any two traverses is 2.8 feet.

The locomotive has three coupled axles, on the mid one of which the drum is attached so as to be raised or lowered to engage the rails at the will of the engineer: it being possible to cause it to act on the rails with a pressure of 3.7 tons. The diameter of the drum is 2.14 feet. Its spiral thread is of steel, very solidly attached, and so made as to grip the rails to a distance of 0.6 inch below the level of the track. In order to insure this contact, on the drum axle are two pulleys which run on the exterior road, and of which the diameter determines the depth of the hold of the threads. These pulleys are 34.7 inches in diameter, while the driving wheels are very slightly in excess, to provide for the use of tyres.

M. Wetli's invention, as we have described it, was placed between Woedensweil and Einsiedlen, Switzerland. The difference in altitude between these points is 1,513 feet, the distance 9.6 miles. The grade is from 4 to 5 per cent over the first six miles of the way, and subsequently decreases to 1 per cent. The Wetli railroad was established last October only on the heavy grade, that is, the first six miles.

Early in November, trial trips were made which did not prove satisfactory. Sometimes the drum thread gripped the triangular rails properly and acted well; again it would wedge itself upon them, and often would simply roll over their tops without engaging at all. After the first trials, during which very many of the rails were broken, M. Welti re-adjusted the drum thread. Finally, he concluded that he had overcome all difficulties in his apparatus; and accordingly a formal trial was arranged on November 30. For about four and a half miles of the ascent the drum worked well; and the hoarfrost, with which the rails were thickly covered, showed good contact. Afterward it worked irregularly; but the station of Schindelleghi, a distance of five miles, was reached without accident, the locomotive dragging a car loaded with 20 tons of rails. It was then attempted to make the descent by the aid of the helicoidal drum; but this jumped the rails, and broke them almost immediately. By the aid of back pressure of steam and brakes, the locomotive was stopped. Then, unfortunately, the engine was started again; but hardly had the descent been resumed when it was evident that the drum was not holding, and that the speed was accelerating rapidly. Brakes and steam were both found useless, and the engine went tearing over the rails at the rate of a mile a minute. Of the fourteen persons in the vehicles, three were thrown out and killed, and the rest were more or less seriously injured. The heavily loaded car left the track, and tore up both central and side rails until its coupling broke. The engineer, with great intrepidity, clung to his engine, coolly giving signals to open switches so that the locomotive might run upon the level track and so expend its momentum; but the engine left the rails at a sharp curve, destroyed the track for about a hundred feet, and finally stopped a mass of ruins, with its brave engineer mortally wounded. Whether the Wetli system can be made to work as intended by the inventor is regarded as doubtful by the engineers who have examined into the causes of the disaster.

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If a man keeps Leghorns he must have no garden, or he must cover the top of his hen yards. That Leghorns are great layers and active hens, there can be no denying, but they are great flyers. We have built our yard a lath and a half high, says the Poultry Review, but what do these saucy things care for that? Although they have the whole outside world to range in, yet the garden seems to have a greater attraction than all the rest. The other day we found it necessary to feed a weak chicken in the garden by itself, so that it might be sure of its share. A few minutes afterwards, on looking out of the window, we discovered the weak chicken in the henyard and two Leghorn hens finishing up its food. We went out, but the two robbers had fled. Going around the corner, we found them rolling in a flower bed. A Leghorn will do as much mischief in a garden in five minutes as anything we know of.

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Siehr recommends very highly the use of sawdust in mortar as superior even to hair for the prevention of cracking and subsequent peeling off of rough casting under the action of storms and frost. His own house, exposed to prolonged storms on the seacoast, had patches of mortar to be renewed each spring, and after trying without effect a number of substances to prevent it, he found sawdust perfectly satisfactory. It was first thoroughly dried and sifted through an ordinary grain sieve to remove the larger particles. The mortar was made by mixing 1 part cement, 2 lime, 2 sawdust, and 5 sharp sand, the sawdust being first well mixed dry with the cement and sand.

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SUINT FOR WATERPROOFING FABRICS.—A German chemist has patented the waterproofing of finely woven fabrics, linen, cotton, etc., by means of suint composition. He adapts his method to securing the suint to wool-washing establishments at a small cost.

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Some very curious physiological facts bearing upon the presence or absence of white colors in the higher animals have lately been adduced by Dr. Ogle. It has been found that a colored or dark pigment in the olfactory region of the nostrils is essential to perfect smell, and this pigment is rarely deficient except when the whole animal is pure white. In these cases the creature is almost without smell or taste. This, Dr. Ogle believes, explains the curious case of the pigs in Virginia adduced by Mr. Darwin, white pigs being poisoned by a poisonous root which does not affect black pigs. Mr. Darwin imputed this to a constitutional difference accompanying the dark color, which rendered what was poisonous to the white colored animals quite innocuous to the black. Dr. Ogle, however, observes that there is no proof that the black pigs eat the root, and he believes the more probable explanation to be that it is distasteful to them, while the white pigs, being deficient in smell and taste, eat it, and are killed. Analogous facts occur in several distinct families. White sheep are killed in the Tarentino by eating hypericum criscum, while black sheep escape; white rhinoceros are said to perish from eating euphorbia candelabrum; and white horses are said to suffer from poisonous food where colored ones escape. Now it is very improbable that a constitutional immunity from poisoning by so many distinct plants should, in the case of such widely different animals, be always correlated with the same difference of color; but the facts are readily understood if the senses of smell and taste are dependent on the presence of a pigment which is deficient in wholly white animals. The explanation has, however, been carried a step further by experiments showing that the absorption of odors by dead matter, such as clothing, is greatly affected by color, black being the most powerful absorbent, then blue, red, yellow, and lastly white. We have here a physical cause for the sense-inferiority of totally white animals which may account for their rarity in nature. For few, if any, wild animals are wholly white. The head, the face, or at least the muzzle or the nose, are generally black. The ears and eyes are also often black; and there is reason to believe that dark pigment is essential to good hearing, as it certainly is to perfect vision. We can therefore understand why white cats with blue eyes are so often deaf—a peculiarity we notice more readily than their deficiency of smell or taste.—Dr. Wallace, British Association, 1876.

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Mr. Henry C. Brush, of Brush's Mills, N.Y., has patented through the Scientific American Patent Agency an improved troller, the novel feature in which consists in attaching a float to the shank of the implement under the revolving blade, the object being to keep the troller near the surface of the water, where the fish may see it more readily, and whereby the liability of catching in weeds and logs is obviated.

A is a float, attached to the shank, a, of the troller. B is the spoon, which is swiveled in the usual manner. The device is very simple, and is claimed to prevent all the annoyance arising from the hook catching in sunken obstructions.

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The process, patented some time ago, for the removal of straw, burrs, etc., from wool, by treatment with sulphuric acid, has been modified by Lisc as follows: The stuff is worked for one to two hours in a bath consisting of about 26 gallons sulphuric acid, of 3 deg. to 6 deg., 1 lb. alum, 1/2 lb. salt, and 750 grains borax. It is then treated in a centrifugal machine, and afterward subjected to a temperature of 212 deg. to 248 deg.. For removal of the acid it is first washed with pure water for 11/2 hours, then treated for two hours with fuller's earth, soda, and lime, and finally washed for two hours with fresh water. As sulphuric acid can only be employed with uncolored cloths, or such as have been dyed with indigo, chloride of zinc and chloride of manganese diluted to 6 deg. are substituted with fabrics otherwise dyed.

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Caffeone, the aromatic principle of coffee, may be isolated by distilling 5 or 6 lbs. roasted coffee with water, agitating the aqueous distillate with ether, and afterwards evaporating the ether. It is a brown oil, heavier than water, in which it is only very slightly soluble. An almost imponderable quantity of this essential oil will suffice to aromatize a gallon of water.

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The novel form of vessel, to which the above odd name has been given by its inventor, M. Donato Tommasi, of Paris, France, is a combination of a boat wholly submerged with a raft: a connecting link, to borrow the naturalist's expression, between the submerged torpedo boat and the monitor. The advantages which are expected to be realized from this hybrid craft, the inventor describes as follows: "It is evident that a vessel, plunged several yards below the surface of the sea, is no longer influenced by wind or wave. Let the sea be agitated, let there be the most violent tempest, yet the boat which navigates under water will never be wrecked, for the same reason that a fish cannot be drowned. * * * What a beautiful vision, that of traversing the ocean, as a balloon floats through the air, with the same tranquillity, without shocks, without the insupportable rolling and pitching!" etc. The construction of the invention introduced in this glowing manner will be understood from Figs. 1 and 2. A is the plunger cylinder, shown with its side broken away in Fig. 2. In Fig. 1, G is the rudder, H the propeller, and I the tube through which sea water passes to the pump. In Fig. 2, C is the smokestack, M M are compartments in which water may be admitted to increase the weight, and hence the depth of flotation of the plunger, the same being filled or emptied by the pump, P. N is the hold for merchandise, partitioned off from the boiler room as shown.

From the plunger, A, rise two hollow columns, E, to which metallic plates, F, are attached to diminish friction through the water. These support the upper division or platform, B. The second shaft (not lettered), which rises above the platform in Fig. 1, serves to ventilate the plunger. The columns, E, serve as shoots down which merchandise is lowered to the compartments, N; and their upper ends are received in two immense inverted cups attached to the bottom of the part, B. Through these cups pass large screws, which confine the columns so that, by removing the connection, the whole submarine apparatus may in case of necessity be freed from the upper works. On each side of the platform, B, which is of elliptical figure, is a large float, seen in Fig. 3, which, by means of racks and gearing, may be raised or lowered at will. Usually these floats are carried at a height of a yard above the water. In calm weather, this distance is increased, and in storms it is diminished, the object of the floats being to keep the whole vessel on an even plane, and to prevent too violent oscillations. In order to facilitate navigation in shallow water, the columns, E, may be made telescopic, and operated by hydraulic apparatus, so that they may be shortened at will. Any form of engine or propeller may be used.

Besides the advantage of the vessel being unaffected by waves, since its submerged portion travels far below them, the inventor claims that it will meet less resistance from the water than would a vessel of corresponding volume sailing on the surface. It will make faster progress, because it has no waves to mount and descend; and hence it always travels in a nearly right line. The screw being submerged at a great depth will not tend to turn the vessel from her straight path. The platform being easily detachable may serve as a raft in case of injury to the submarine boat. For fast travel, on lakes, rivers, and shallow water generally, M. Tommasi proposes to support his platform on two floats which rest on the surface of the water. No weight, therefore, is thrown on the submarine vessel, which need be constructed with only just enough buoyancy to sustain itself and its engine. In this way, the upper craft has no engine or other load than its cargo; and as it merely rests upon the surface, the inventor thinks that it will skim over the same like an ice boat on ice.

For war purposes, the hemi-plunger is especially adapted, because the vulnerable portions, engines, boiler, rudder, etc., are wholly out of the reach of shot. Guns are mounted on the platform, which thus becomes a circular or elliptical turret, just above the water when the vessel is in fighting trim. Instead of steel armor, M. Tommasi has a new invention which he calls hydro-metallic plating. He reserves the details of this for future publication; but generally the armor consists of tubes in which liquid is forced under a pressure equivalent to the resistance, say, of forged steel. He thinks this will oppose shot as effectually as the solid metal, and will have the additional advantage of superior lightness.

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IN-SOLES saturated with salicylic acid have been introduced as a remedy for perspiration of the feet.

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A United States patent was granted May 23, 1854, to John Myers and Robert G. Eunson for a wood-sawing machine for cutting boards into thin stuff for making picture frame and mirror backs. One of the principal claims was for the employment of two deflecting plates, one on each side of the circular saw, by which both sides of the sawed stuff, as fast as it was cut, was slightly deflected so as not to bind upon the saw. Suit was brought by the patentee against Dunbar and Hopper for infringement, and judgment was given in favor of the patentees, in the United States Circuit Court, this city, the damages awarded being $9,121. The defendants thereupon took an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, which tribunal has reversed the finding of the Circuit Court and dismissed the complaint. It was held by the Supreme Court that, inasmuch as the use of a single deflecting plate was old, well known, and in common use, it was simply an exercise of ordinary mechanical skill, and not a patentable invention, to employ a second deflecting plate, although the superiority of the double deflectors, for certain kinds of work, appears to be conceded.

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The planing machine, next to the saw, is perhaps the most important agent for the conversion and manipulation of wood in use; and before proceeding to consider it, in its present form, says the author of this article, Mr. F.H. Morse, in the Northwestern Lumberman, it may not be out of place to notice briefly its origin and history.

The first man to employ power in the operation of smoothing the surface of wood was Sir Samuel Bentham, of London, England, and to him belongs the honor of having discovered the principle upon which all planing machines operate. A brief personal notice of this remarkable inventor will serve to show under what circumstances the planing machine originated. His education was secured at the Westminster school of London, and, as far as can be ascertained from the meager records of his life that have come down to us, was of the most thorough kind, both classical and scientific, that could be obtained at that time (1770). When his education was finished, he was bound to the master shipwright of the Woolwich dockyard, to whom he served an apprenticeship of seven years, acquiring in that time a practical knowledge of the methods of working in both wood and iron then in vogue, and receiving the best scientific instruction that the development of that period afforded. After his term of apprenticeship had expired, he spent about two years in looking up the local peculiarities of other shipyards whose methods of working differed in some respects from those of the Woolwich mechanics.

In 1779 he was ordered by the government to examine into the progress of shipbuilding in Northern Europe, and in carrying out this commission he repaired to Russia, where he invented the first machine for planing wood. Its mode of operation, whether reciprocating or rotating, it is impossible to ascertain positively, but the conclusion arrived at, after referring to the specifications of his first patent, which was issued in 1791, is that it worked upon the former principle by means closely analogous to the operation of planing by hand. He seems to have made no use of his venture in Russia, though he resided there several years and filled several important positions under the Russian Government. He returned to his native country in 1791 and joined his brother, Jeremy Bentham, who had at that time just received an appointment from the government to introduce industrial prisons in England. To utilize the unskilled labor of the convicts, the talents of Sir Samuel were called into use, and he devised a number of new machines, the greater part of which were for working wood. For want of a more suitable place, these machines were constructed at the residence of Jeremy Bentham, which was thus converted into the first manufactory for woodworking machines. This factory was established in 1794, but was soon found to be too small for the purpose, and another building was occupied. In a lecture before the Society of Arts, in 1853, Professor Willis, referring to the shops of the Benthams, stated that "there were constructed machines for all general operations in woodwork, including planing, molding, rebating, grooving, mortising, and sawing, both in coarse and fine work, in curved, winding, and transverse directions, and shaping wood in complicated forms; and further, as an example, that all parts of a highly finished window sash are prepared, also all parts of an ornamented carriage wheel were made so that nothing remained to be done by hand but to put the component parts together."

In 1797 the Admiralty consented to the introduction of such of these machines as could be used to advantage in the different dockyards, and they were manufactured under the direction of Jeremy Bentham, and forwarded from time to time to Portsmouth and Plymouth, where they were used with good results, performing all that was claimed for them.

Bentham was joined in 1810 by another genius (formerly in the employ of the brothers) by the name of Brunel, who had invented several valuable machines, among which was one for shaping block shells, which seems to have had Bentham's indorsement. As Inspector General, in 1803, Sir Samuel advised the Admiralty to introduce many of his new machines, and also to permit the use of steam engines; accordingly, the dockyards were fitted with engines for sawing, planing, boring, tenoning, mortising, etc. The labor saved by their use can be inferred from the fact that Brunel, who had assisted in their construction, received as a premium for his inventions the amount saved in the yards by their use in one year, which reached the respectable sum of $80,000. In the same year the government settled with Jeremy Bentham, after arbitration, and allowed him for machines furnished the yards and prisons, $100,000. We learn from testimony given before the arbitrators that "Sir Samuel Bentham prepared a system of machinery for the employment of men without skill, and particularly with a view to utilizing convict labor. In 1793 patents were taken out on these inventions to secure their exclusive use for the prisons." The testimony states that no skill was required in the use of these machines; they were introduced into the dockyards and worked by common laborers. It was claimed that nine tenths of the labor was saved by the use of Bentham's machines, which proves that they were at least effective, which cannot be said in all cases of those of modern manufacture.

The patent of Bentham, issued in 1793, is doubtless one of the most remarkable ones ever issued, both for the importance of the inventions it protected and the clearness with which they and the principles on which they operated are described. Richards, in referring to that section of this patent which relates to rotary tools for woodcutting, quotes the inventor as saying: "The idea of adapting the rotative motion of a tool with more or less advantage, to give all sorts of substances any shape that may be required, is my own, and, as I believe, entirely new."

For those not skilled in nor acquainted with the nature and extent of the various operations in wood conversion which come under the head of shaping with rotary cutters, it will be difficult to convey an idea of the invention here set forth; it includes, indeed, nearly all operations in woodworking, and as an original invention may be said to consist in the discovery of the fact that flat surfaces, or surfaces of any contour, can be properly prepared by the action of rotating tools. It is not to be wondered at that such an operation should not have been sooner discovered, for even at the present time there are few processes in treating material which seem so anomalous as that of planing a flat surface with cutters revolving in a circle of a few inches in diameter.

In reference to planing mouldings, it is said: "If the circumference of a circular cutter be formed in the shape of any moulding, and projecting above the bench no more than necessary, the piece being shoved over the cutter will thus be cut to a moulding corresponding to the cutter—that is, the reverse of it, just as a plane iron cuts the reverse. If a plane cutter, such as that above spoken of for cutting a groove in the breadth of a piece, be made so thick, or, as we might be apt to say now, so broad, or so long, as to cover the whole breadth of the piece, it will present the idea of a roller. This I call a cutting roller; it maybe employed in many cases with great advantage to perform the office of a plane."

The cutting roller of Bentham is the present cutter block of England, or the cutting cylinder of America, and after what has been quoted it may be seen that the idea of rotary planing and moulding machines had been fully grasped by Bentham. He goes on as usual to the various conditions which attach to the process of planing, and says further: "if a cutting roller of this sort be placed with its axis horizontal and the bench beneath, it may be made to rise and lower. The bench (machine) may be very readily adjusted, so as to determine the thickness to which a piece will be reduced by being passed under the roller." "To gain time, cutters may be applied to different sides of a piece at once, and such of them as make parallel cuts may be mounted on the same spindle."

These extracts would not be out of place in an explanatory lecture or essay on woodcutting at the present day, and cannot help awakening surprise that they should have been written eighty-three years ago, when there had, so far as we know, been no precedents, nor even suggestions from previous practice.

The foregoing shows that nearly all the fundamental principles, upon which woodcutting by machinery in its present development depends, were familiar to Sir Samuel Bentham, and though his name has been almost forgotten, it may be safely asserted that he gave to the world more useful inventions than any other man of his age. His work shows throughout a constant method and system of reasoning, which point rather to a life of persistent labor than to one of what would ordinarily be called genius. That latter quality he must certainly have possessed in the highest degree, for without it even his knowledge and experience could not have been equal to the work he accomplished. Directed to different ends, his talent and genius would doubtless have secured for him a fame that would live for years, though it does not seem possible that he could have conferred upon the world a greater benefit.

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A curious and suggestive table of statistics has recently appeared in France, which will doubtless prove of much value in the hands of students of psychology and nervous mental ailments. It relates to suicides; and the conditions, etc., of the people who made away with themselves in 1874 in France are taken as the basis of the figures. In that year, 5,617 suicides occurred, the largest number ever known in any one year in the country. Of these, 4,435, or 79 per cent., were committed by men, 1,182, or 21 per cent., by women. In spite of the careful investigations of the police, the ages of 105 people could be determined. The 5,512 others are divided as follows: 16 years, 29; between 16 and 21 years, 193; between 21 and 40 years, 1,477; between 40 and 60 years, 2,214; exceeding the last mentioned age, 1,599. About 36 per cent. of these unfortunates were unmarried, 48 per cent. married, and 16 per cent. widowers. Of those which constituted the last two classes, nearly two thirds had children. More than seven tenths of the suicides were effected by strangulation or drowning. The crime was most frequently committed during spring, when 31 per cent. of the whole number destroyed themselves; during other seasons the percentages were: in summer, 27; in winter, 23; in autumn, 19.

Included in the tables are the results of the judicial inquests, showing the professions and callings of the deceased. About 33 per cent. were farmers, 30 per cent. mechanics, 4 per cent. merchants or business men, 16 per cent. members of the liberal professions, 4 per cent. servants, and 13 percent. were destitute of any calling. The table even analyzes, in all but 481 people, the motives which caused the fatal act. Thus we are told that 652 killed themselves because of reverses in fortune, 701 through family troubles, 572 through drunkenness, 243 through love, debauchery, etc.; 798 died to avoid physical suffering, 59 to avoid the penalties of capital crimes, 489 for unclassified troubles, and 1,622 were clearly shown to have been afflicted with some mental disease.

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To the Editor of the Scientific American:

Mr. Charles Williams, of Winoa, Ohio, has written a letter to that veteran botanist, Humphrey Marshall, of Chester county, Pa., on the subject of the abovenamed plant, and my opinion concerning it has been asked for. Seeds of this plant were obtained by citizens of Boston, who had snow brought from the White Mountains and from the coast of Labrador, and who stated that they have "now the most unbounded satisfaction and pleasure of announcing that all signs are favorable to the realization of their fondest hopes." This wonderful plant, it seems, was found amid the perpetual snows of the northern boundaries of Siberia, in 1863, by Count Swinoskoff, the eminent Russian botanist, and it was by him cultivated at St. Petersburgh. The account sent me is very vague, and is evidently not from the pen of a botanist. It is stated that it comes forth on the first day of the year, grows to the height of three feet, and flowers on the third day. It continues in bloom for twenty-four hours, then dissolves itself, being of the finest snow; it has a stalk one inch in diameter, and leaves, three in number, 11/2 inches wide, covered with infinitesimal frost or snow cones. The flower is of the shape of a star, with petals 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide at the broadest part, forming a basketwork of frost. The seeds are like a pin's head. This is about all that can be gleaned from the description, and is by no means satisfactory. Allow me to present my humble views of an analogous discovery of frostwork on December 6, 1856, in a sandy loam in Chester county, Pa., near the Paoli monument. In the Horticultural Journal of Philadelphia, then edited by J. Jay Smith (New Series, volume vii., page 73, 1857), an account was published of my observations then. These I have since more fully confirmed. The common dittany (cunila Mariana) is frequently met with in December, with the base of the stem surrounded with shellwork of ice, of a pearly whiteness. Dr. Darlington, in his "Flora Cestrica" published in 1853, page 199, under the article cunila, observes: "In the beginning of winter, after a rain, very curious ribbons of ice may be observed, attached to the base of the stems, produced, I presume, by the moisture of the earth rising in the dead stems by capillary attraction, and then being gradually forced out horizontally, through a slit, by the process of freezing. The same phenomenon has been observed in other plants. See observations on helianthemum, page 27." Had the doctor given a more extended investigation, I fancy he would have agreed with me as to the cause. I found hundreds of diversified specimens. I am not aware that it was after a rain, but I took up a number of the plants, and always found a vigorous scaly root bud, undergoing development at this early season under ground, to produce a new stem the following spring. I came to the conclusion that, as the temperature was below freezing and snow was on the ground, the expanding bud, in close proximity to the surface, gave out sufficient caloric or warmth to generate vapor from the moist soil. This vapor rising around the stem of the plant, and attracted by it, becomes congealed into what we term hoar-frost, in numerous forms; some like shellwork, others like tulips, with radiated petals, variously contorted, and often as symmetrical as snowflake crystals.

That plants in germinating have the power of generating heat was proved by Mr. Hunter and by Lamarck. Experiments of Hales and Du Hamel show that vegetation is not wholly suspended, however cold it may be; and that there is a regular and gradual progress till the returning warmth of spring gives a greater degree of velocity to the juices, rendering their development more vigorous and apparent. If the crystallization takes place when the air is calm, the crystals will be regularly formed; otherwise, when windy, I have seen them like a shell within a shell, very thin, of a pearly whiteness. Professor Tyndall has shown in a very beautiful manner that ice is but an agglomeration of snow crystals: the transparency of the former being due to the expulsion of the air, entrapped in and causing the whiteness and opacity of the latter. There is a formation called the snow plant of California, which arises to some height, and has been compared to various things, a fountain convoluted and enlarged above, a crystallized small bushy shrub, etc.; but on closer inquiry, I have failed as yet to get any definite ideas to its true character. Some bulbs in the soil might cause such formations by the congelation of vapor deposited successively upon itself, or the stems of the previous year's growth yet remaining, and thus give them a sheathing of frosting.

The shape of a star is common in snow crystals, which we all know assume the most beautiful forms, and which are illustrated in various publications. The eminent botanist Count Swinoskoff should give us some clue as to the genus or character of the plant, the flower of which, we are told, melted away on being touched, and as to the stamens, the diamond seeds like a pin's head, etc. The whole needs further explanation.

I trust those Bostonians who are in such hope will edify the public as to the final result of their experiment. What has that veteran in botany, Dr. Asa Gray, to say about it? Let some one well qualified tell us more about this frost flower of Russia.

J. Stauffer. Lancaster, Pa.

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To the Editor of the Scientific American:

From the report of the Commissioner of Patents, just issued, it appears that its surplus revenue for the past year amounts to over one hundred and five thousand dollars, and that there is nearly a million dollars in the United States Treasury to the credit of the Patent Office; and yet, notwithstanding that this enormous amount is lying idle, our pseudo-economists at the Capitol refuse to grant the Office sufficient of its own funds to carry on its business promptly. So much is the work behindhand in some of the departments that, as the Commissioner states in his report, some of the attorneys who require certified copies of papers have been obliged to employ their own clerks to do office copying, and then had to pay the full legal rate of ten cents per hundred words, the same as though the Office had done the work. This style of economizing, by making inventors pay two prices for their work, may be "reform" in the eyes of the average Democratic Congressman; but speaking for myself, as one of those who have had to pay twice, I would prefer to dispense with this style of "retrenchment and reform," and therefore ask you, Messrs. Editors, in behalf of the inventors of the United States, to so stir up our legislators that they will allow the Office sufficient of its own funds to do its work properly, and not delay the work of the inventor—work that he has to pay for in advance—and so prevent the discouragement and trouble which these delays always cause.

As the Patent Office has been doing a good business lately, there appears to be some attempt at rivalry at the Capitol, as the following list of applications for extension will show:


—— Reynolds, power loom brake. Strong & Ross, scales. Wm. & W.H. Lewis, photographic plates. T.A. Weston, differential pulley. S.S. Hartshorn, buckles. H.A. Stone, making cheese. N. Whitehall, cultivator. J.R. Harrington, carpet lining. H.L. Emery, cotton gins. J. Stainthorp, moulding candles. Walter Hunt's heirs, paper collars. A.B. Wilson, sewing machines. S.A. Knox, plows. Rollin White, firearms. Aikin A. Felthousen, sewing machines. H. Woodman, stripping cotton cards. L. Hall, heel trimmer. J.A. Conover, wood splitter. J. Dyson, carding engine. G. Wellmann, card strippers. E. Brady, safety valves. Jearum Atkins, harvester rakes. John Thomas, re-rolling railroad rails. Thomas Mitchell, hair brushes. Stephen Hull, harvesters. T.R. Crosby, wiring blind slats. G.W. Laban, mitre cutting machine. T.A. Whitenack, harvesters. J.J. Vinton, furnaces. A. Fuller, faucets. D. Baker, pitcher spouts and lids. G.F. Chandler, refining sugar. G.H. Nott, boiler furnace. William Hall, lightning rods. B.F. Rice, paper bag machines. S.D. Nelson, shovels. E.T. Russell, car springs. Hubbell & Conant, steam pumps. C.A. Chamberlain, shovels. C.A. Adams, locks. E.A. Leland, paint can.

In addition to the above, I find the following names as applicants for extensions, but the inventions covered by the patents sought to be extended is not mentioned: S.S. Turner, Arculous Wyckoff, De Witt C. Cummings, Moses Marshall, J.W. Fowler, and Holloway & Graham. Many of the applicants have apparently given up their cases for this session, but they may be only lying back to its close in hopes that in the final rush their "little bills" may slip through easily.

Several bills tinkering at the patent laws are before Congress, and one of these (House Bill, No. 3,370) passed the House on the 30th ult. It has one section that may be made to work great harm to inventors, as it prevents infringers being sued for more than one year's damages previous to notice of infringement being given. By this bill, if it is allowed to become a law, a person will be able to build and use patented machines or processes for years in some out of the way place where the inventor cannot easily find him; and should he be discovered, he can only be sued for one year's damages. There are other sections in this bill which will bear ventilating.

Another bill, introduced into the Senate by Mr. Paddock, provides that all appeals from the Board of Appeals shall be direct to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, instead of to the Commissioner as heretofore; and that the fees shall be the same as now paid to the latter official.

Mr. Sampson has introduced into the House a bill changing section 4886 so that it shall read as follows: "SEC. 4886. Any person who has discovered any new or useful art, machine, manufacture or composition of matter, or any new or useful improvement thereof, not known or used by others in this country, and not patented or described in any printed publication in this or any foreign country, before his invention or discovery thereof, and not in public use or on sale for more than two years prior to his application, unless the same is proved to have been abandoned, may, upon payment of the fees required by law, and other due proceedings had, obtain a patent therefor: Provided, That the manufacture or composition of drugs as a medicine shall not be patentable." The change is the addition of the words in italics.

The Smithsonian Institute has sent to Congress a memorial setting forth that the present Institute building is already too small for the vast amount of articles already placed there on exhibition; that at the late Centennial Exposition the Commissioners of various countries presented their entire collection of exhibits to the United States, which had delegated their care to the Smithsonian Institute, and they had no place for them; that the armory building was being fitted up for the reception of the United States Centennial collection, and they therefore asked that a building be erected for the foreign collection, which could be used as a national museum, or otherwise we should have to offend the donors by keeping their valuable gifts stowed away in cellars and other rubbish receptacles.

Mr. Eads, who is now here on the lookout for his pay for his work on the South Pass of the Mississippi's mouth, has received intelligence from the resident engineer at the jetties that the channel through the shoal at the head of the South Pass is now twenty-two feet deep, and that the least width at which twenty feet depth is found is one hundred and ten feet. The principal works to improve this shoal were constructed during the last six months. The low stage and feeble current of the river has delayed their effect until the recent flood from the Ohio reached them, and the problem of deepening the shoal has been fully solved by the rapid scouring away of the obstruction. It is stated that the channel is quite straight and is deepening rapidly. The channel through the jetties at the mouth of the Pass is twenty-one feet deep. The entrance from the sea through the jetties is one thousand feet wide, and through the works at the head of the Pass eight hundred feet.

A recent telegram from Nevada states that the Sutro Tunnel (of which I gave you some particulars in one of my letters) has now progressed a total distance of 15,565 feet and has fairly entered the mineral belt, and will soon help to increase the already vast products of the Comstock lode.

While on the subject of mining, I will state that the amount of quicksilver produced in California has increased so immensely during the last two years that it has attracted the attention of all interested in the article throughout the world. The receipts for the year have been 63,928 and the exports 48,010 flasks. In addition to the receipts there, probably about six thousand flasks were shipped direct from the mines to Nevada, thus bringing up the total production to over 70,000 flasks, a gain in round numbers of from twelve thousand to fifteen thousand flasks over 1875. The exports in that year were 34,844 flasks, or 13,666 less than in 1876.


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TYRIAN PURPLE INK FOR MARKING LINEN.—Von Bele gives the following method for preparing an ink for marking linen and cotton: Neutralize 75 grains of carbonate of ammonia with pure nitric acid, and triturate 45 to 60 grains of carmine with the solution. Mordant the fabric with a mixed solution of acetate of alumina and tin salt, and write upon it, when it is perfectly dry, with the ink.

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On Monday evening, January 29, 1877, a meeting of this Academy was held at the School of Mines, Columbia College, Dr. J.S. Newberry, President, in the chair. Mr. A.A. Julian, A.M., read a paper on the


The speaker described in detail the various operations, exhibited the different kinds of apparatus employed, showed the operations, and exhibited the finished sections. In some rocks a thin chip can be broken off, others require to be sawn, and for the latter purpose the diamond saw is best. Having obtained the chip, it is first polished on one side, then cemented to a little square of glass, and the other side polished in the same way. The sections must not be too thick, nor too thin; they are usually made from a hundredth to a thousandth of an inch thick. Lathes employed in polishing minerals require to be provided with conical spindles, so that the wear, due to grit and emery dust getting on them, may be readily taken up. The grinding wheel may be either horizontal or vertical; the former has the advantage that the mineral can be held in either hand; with the latter only the right hand can be employed, and that in an awkward and tiresome position. Mr. Julian then referred briefly to the kinds of emery, its preparation by elutriation, etc., and cautioned operators against using rouge or tin putty powder in polishing rock sections, although they may be employed in polishing certain minerals and gems. The object of making the rock sections being to study their constituents and determine what minerals enter into their composition, it is important that no foreign substance, liable to adhere to the specimen and to be mistaken for one of its ingredients, be placed on the section while grinding. Lastly, the minerals are mounted on glass, with or without covers, by means of Canada balsam. Square glasses are to be preferred to the long and narrow strips, usually employed, as less liable to break in the center, and more easily revolved on the stage of a microscope.

Mr. L.H. Landy then exhibited, by means of the gas microscope, several beautiful rock sections, both American and German. The same gentleman also showed the effect of passing polarized light through certain crystal sections, the black cross and rainbow-hued rings revolving like so many wheels as the polarizer was turned.

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