« AnteriorContinuar »
a most captivating picture of a man of true science grappling with a great problem in nature, and, at the same time, catch sometbing of his inspiration, and enrich his own stores of knowledge with the results of an important scientific investigation, should read the volume of Prof. Tyndall on the Glaciers of the Alps, just issued from the press of Ticknor & Fields, Boston.
The questions to which this distinguished physicist here addresses himself are not of mere local interest, nor confined in their bearings to phenomena observed among the Alps. The immense beds of gravel and sand, called drift, which cover large portions of the continents, together with certain phenomena of grooved and polished rocks and transported boulders observed in New England, as well as in other parts of our own continent and of the globe, have been supposed to owe their origin to the action of ancient glaciers, at a period when the temperature and physical geography of the globe were both widely different from what they are at present. Hence, the facts and philosophy of glacier action have, for many years past, received a large share of attention among men of science, particularly geologists, and the many difficult questions growing out of the phenomena observed, have been discussed with the liveliest interest, both in this country and in Europe.
The fact, also, that a sublime theater of glacier action, where all the phenomena are exhibited on a grand scale, lies in the very heart of Europe, and is the constant resort of both scientific and fashionable tourists from all parts of the civilized world, bas tended to give a popular interest to the subject, which it might not otherwise have possessed.
No book can be better adapted to satisfy both scientific and popular curiosity in respect to these questions, than this of Prof. Tyndall's. It is conveniently divided into two parts; first, the Narrative, occupying half the volunie, in which are given with much force and fidelity of des. cription, the details of the author's personal explorations and adventures among the Alps during the summers of the last four or five years
-including two perilous ascents of Mont Blanc and two of Monte Rosa, with a winter expedition to the Mer de Glace; and, secondly, the Scientific matter, filling the remainder of the volume, in which are contained fuller details of observations and measurements, with discussions of theories, and expositions of the principles of physics to which the phenomena are related. This second part is totally different in character from the repulsive appendices of dry figures and formula
which so often accompany Narratives of Exploration, and which none but the hardiest of scientific cormorants care to taste, or are able to digest. Let no one, then, however unscientific, cheat himself out of the enjoyment of this most attractive portion of the book, by imagining it to have been intended for another class of readers. Prof. Tyndall has the rare faculty of being able to render the most abstruse principles of science clear and attractive to every capacity, and we know not where the reader can turn for a more simple and intelligible exposition of some of the fundamental principles of physics, particularly the nature and relations of light and heat, than to these luminous pages.
Nor less intelligible and attractive is the author's discussion of rival theories, and advocacy of his own. These theories pertain chiefly to the motion of glaciers ;—for science has not only discovered the fact, but aims to explain it, that the glaciers are in motion. Coleridge stood among the icy solitudes of the Alps in the mood of a poet, rather than of a prying physicist, when, in that sublime anthem, the “Hymn before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamouni,” he apostrophizes the glaciers of Mont Blanc as impressing the soul mainly with the idea of awful silence and immovable fixity.
“Ye ice-falls ! ye that from the mountain's brow,
Motionless torrents ! silent cataracts!"To the ear of science, however, these silent cataracts, in making their mad plunge, crackle and crash with the noise of earthquake or of thunder, as their fathomless depths of rigid ice are broken asunder, into innumerable chasms and ridges. And these "motionless torrents” are shown by Prof. Tyndall's theodolite to be really in perpetual motiun, winding their way down the mountain gorges with a velocity ranging from one to two, or even three feet in every twentyfour hours. They are shown, by the Professor's loyic, moreover, notwithstanding their seeming rigidity and vitreous density, to be in fact veritable ice-rivers, flowing, like all other rivers, faster in the middle than at the sides, and faster at top than at bottom, with the line of swiftest current not always in the middle, but, as in all serpentine streams, shifting alternately from side to side, according to the windings of the banks, so as to form deeper sinuosities than the banks themselves.
In discussing the theories of Glacier-motion, Prof. Tyndall passes in review, with a dispassionate but searching criticism, the “dilation"
theory of Charpentier, the “sliding” theory of De Saussure, the “ viscous” theory of Prof. Forbes, the “plasticity” theory of Prof. J. Thompson, and the pressure” theory of Bishop Rendu, adopting the latter as the basis of his own, and expanding it into a consistent and apparently philosophical explanation of all the leading phenomena of glacier motion. This theory we have not here room to explain—but as a leading feature, it attributes glacier-motion to the effect of gravity or pressurethe weight of the mass above altering the form and relative position of the portions below, and forcing them to yield gradually in the direc tion of least resistance, or down the valleys, as in the case of other streams.
Various other phenomena connected with glaciers, besides their motion, are also discussed in this volume with great ability, and the whole subject is presented with a degree of lucidness and completeness, which leaves little to be desired, either by the man of science or the general reader.
ANSWER TO Hugu MILLER.*-A notice of this book, quite extendedmore extended than its merits, (though not, perhaps, than its demerits) deserve—was prepared for our last Nuinber, but unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, it somehow got lost, probably among the rubbish of the printing office; and on “ sober second thought," instead of " making game” of the book, we deem it sufficient simply to say that it is worthless—a book indicating indeed, on the part of its author, a sincere desire to defend the Bible from harm, but itself remarkably mal apropos as a means of doing it. A book that holds Geology to be a humbug and Geologists infidels, that teaches that “stones grow," and that fossils were created in the rocks just as they are, yet, that in their present condition, they are an independent order of creatures, having a distinct life and province of their own—in short, that fossils beget fossils,-a book that soberly, and in italics, stakes the credit of the Bible on this contingency--" that if the pre-Adamite fossils were preceded by vegetable and animal life, then the Mosaic account, the fourth commandment, and the Biblical dependencies upon them, are unworthy of consideration, and are of necessity untrue as the foundation of Biblical and Christian faith ;" a book, finally, which holds that the “ignorance" of Geologists and theologians, "has been and still is a towering avalanche of infidelity upon the Scriptures,” yet which expresses “ the hope that a little light well concentrated, (as in our author's book, “ will melt those triumphantly dancing white feathers into bitter tears of remorse :” (!) such a book, as every sane man who reads it will be convinced, is only calculated to make infidels scoff, the scientific laugh, and the “judicious grieve.”
* Answer to Hugh Miller and Theoretic Geologists. By Thomas A. Davies, Author of “ Cosmogony or Mysteries of Creation," &c. New York: Rudd & Carlton, 130 Grand street. 1860. pp. 302.
LECTURES ON NATURAL HIstory.*—Prof. Chadbourne, in this little work, has entered an earnest and eloquent plea for Natural History, as an important element in a course of education. He has discussed the subject in a series of four lectures, prepared for delivery, and here printed as prepared, in which Natural History is considered in its rela. tions to Intellect, to Taste, to Wealth, and to Religion. Its claims to consideration in each of these relations are presented with clearness and force, and with ample illustration from the facts and principles which this department of science so abundantly affords. It is shown that the right study of Natural History not only feeds and strengthens the intellect, develops taste, and enhances man's capacity for rational enjoyment, but also tends to the improvement of his moral and religious nature, and even contributes its full share, directly or indirectly, towards the production of material wealth. On all these grounds the author advocates with the warmth of an earnest lover of science, yet with no disparagement of other branches of study, a more prominent place for Natural History in our systems of education, than has heretofore been assigned it. The set of the current, in educational matters, at the present time, is clearly in this direction. These Lectures are well ealculated to aid in accelerating the movement.
LEONARD Scott's REPRINTS OF THE BRITIsh REVIEWS.—As we take up, from month to month, the numbers of Leonard Scott's indispensable reprints of the British Reviews, we often think of the utter astonishment of an English lady, (for years a resident of the Prussian capital, Berlin,) who was told there by a friend of ours that he saw The Times only occasionally, at home, in America. “Is it pos
,* Lectures on Natural History: Its relations to Intellect, Taste, Wealth, and Religion. By P. A. `CHADBOURNE, Professor of Natural History in Williams College, and Professor of Natural History and Chemistry in Bowdoin College. New York: A. S. Barnes & Burr. 1860. pp. 160.
sible ?” exclaimed the ardent worshiper of the British thunderer—" Is possible that there is any one who speaks the English language who doesn't take The Times? How can they live without it !" There are many reasons why we Americans do not subscribe to The Times; and not the least is its cost-about fifty dollars a year. But there is less excuse for not taking the English Reviews. We call attention to the advertisement on page 14 of the New ENGLANDER ADVERTISER. It will there be seen that for ten dollars a year Mr. Scott will send his reprints of The London Quarterly; The Edinburgh Review; The North British Review; The Westminster Review; and Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. There cannot be many better investments of the money. [T. H. Pease, Special Agent for New Haven and vicinity.]
LITTELL’s Living AGE.—We call attention to the Advertisement of Messrs. Littell & Co., on the first page of the New ENGLANDER ADVERTISER. There are few magazines which can be so attractively heralded to the world as this. It will be seen that its praises are set forth in most glowing terms in “a Star Paper by Henry Ward Beecher,”—one, too, that was penned when he was evidently in his most genial mood, and felt the inspiration that came from having a “complete set” of the Living Age on the shelves of his library. We heartily endorse these praises, although we have no hope of ever being the fortunate possessor of so rich a treasure. There is certainly no more readable magazine, and none more universally popular, in city and country, among the rich and among those who are obliged to expend their money with care. The Living Age gives its readers, every week, a choice selection from the whole range of British periodical literature, and just those articles from The Times and the other leading newspapers in England, which they would be most disposed to read if they had access to their files.
In the last number alone, there are extracts from the Saturday Review, the Spectator, the Press, the Economist, the Examiner, Chambers' Journal, Once-a-Week, and other periodicals besides. To those who wish to know what is said in the daily journals in England about all the exciting European questions of the day, and who wish the cream of the British weeklies and monthlies, Littell's Living Age is a necessity. [T. H. Pease, Special Agent for New Haven and vicinity.]