Page images

memory of the late Lieutenant R. W. Poulton Palmer and his sister, the late Mrs. E. H. A. Walker, the object of which will be the investigation of obscure diseases in man.

A FIRE on the night of December 17 in the basement of Havermeyer Hall, the chemical laboratory of Columbia University, caused damage estimated at $10,000.

DEAN EDWARD A. BIRGE has been elected president of the University of Wisconsin to succeed the late Charles R. Van Hise. Dean Birge will serve for two years, when he expects to retire at the age of seventy. He has been a member of the Wisconsin faculty in the department of zoology since 1875, and served as acting president of the university from 1900 to 1903.

DR. HAROLD C. CHAPIN, of the National Carbon Company in Cleveland, has accepted an associate professorship of chemistry at Lafayette College.

THE title of emeritus professor of experimental philosophy has been conferred upon Dr. E. H. Griffiths, F.R.S., on his retirement from the principalship of the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire.


WE will agree with geologic writers from Wm. Smith's day to this that a typical geological cycle consists of a sequence of arenaceous, argillaceous and calcareous deposits, the strandline moving in as deposite-load increases; in place of littoral sands, clear-sea, calcareous matter eventually becomes dominant.

During the minor subdivisions of geologic time, the ages, for example, wherever continental shelves are very broad and near sealevel, slight changes of this datum plane may produce enormous strand-line shifting without bringing about extensive lime-forming conditions; clays will alternate with sand ad infinitem, characterized now by the life of the ocean's flood, now by swamp life during its ebb.

Our southern Eocene deposits seem to

record three such flood stages, separated by two ebb stages.

1. The Midway Stage is the oldest, the most generally marine with an expanse of gulf waters stretching from South Carolina through west Tennessee and perhaps southern Illinois, thence through Arkansas, southwest to and beyond the Rio Grande.

2. The Sabine records the first ebb tide condition over this same great area, a condition conducive to the growth of swamp vegetation, hence the lignitic condition of the strata as we see them to-day.

3. The St. Maurice Stage records the second notable and generally marine condition over much of this area, though extending less deeply into the Mississippi Embayment.

4. The Claiborne Stage appears to be, save in Alabama itself, a second great lignitic formation. Even at Claiborne, just above the Upper Landing, a road-cut shows the famous marine "sand bed" invaded by lignitic materials.

5. The Jackson Stage may well be looked upon as the last and in some ways the most remarkable of the marine accumulations. A quarter of a century ago we marked out a great transgressional loop of this stage up into eastern Arkansas but there were then no known evidences of its occurrence in Texas. But the keen eyes of A. C. Veatch soon discovered such evidences in east Texas; others have made valuable contributions in the same direction, and it is quite likely that the Ostrea contracta (georgiana) beds on the Rio Grande are of this age. To the east, in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, Cook is doing yeoman's service in expanding our knowledge of this great terrane.

Our conclusions in tabular, condensed form appear thus:

[blocks in formation]

character of deposition to slight changes of sea-level. Downwarped in Sabine times (in areas where now accessible) it remained flooded till into St. Maurice times without showing very rapid, or well-defined, sharp changes, faunal or lithological.

Vertebrate paleontology assures us that the holarctic waters have been somewhat drained off now and then during Tertiary times, else land areas have risen out of the seas, furnishing bridges for mammalian migration between the New and Old worlds. The correlation of holarctic with Gulf age tides is a fascinating problem for contemplation, if not for solution by present-day earth-science workers. Perhaps our co-workers on the West Coast may have arrived at some general conclusions regarding tide-level conditions there during the Eocene ages. These, it seems to the undersigned, might be of vast importance for working out the physical history of our Eocene series. G. D. HARRIS

December 5, 1918


BLAKESLEE1 has recently drawn attention to the fact that two individuals may exhibit marked degrees of sensitivity to the fragrance of verbena flowers. A given person, asked to judge between the blossoms of two plants, A and B, may declare the former fragrant but not the latter. From a second person we may get exactly the opposite response. To him B is fragrant but not A.

These differences which were found repeatedly and which seem to have been constant, suggest numerous interesting problems. They also serve to recall that practically nothing is known, or if known, at least not readily accessible to the general reader, on the heritability of differences in the sense of smell.

I have been asked on several occasions what might be expected from a mating involving a

1"Unlike Reactions of Different Individuals to Fragrance in Verbena Flowers," A. F. Blakeslee, SCIENCE, N. S., Vol. XLVIII., p. 298.

normal person and one devoid of a sense of smell and, until asked the first time, I did not know that there are people who not only can not recognize the difference between odors, but can not recognize odors at all.

Not long ago, an instance of this sort fell into my hands and though the family history is fragmentary, it may possibly, when pieced in with other fragments, acquire some little value.

The case in point is that of a young Russian Jew, a fugitive from Kiev. This man, M. is quite unable to distinguish odors in the usual way. Alcohol, or anything with a sufficiently high percentage of alcohol, is simply "felt." The same thing is true of illuminating gas. Ether and chloroform, when very concentrated, "choke"; when dilute, they produce a "feeling" similar to that caused by flowers. The latter, also, he is aware of, but not in the ordinary way. They emit, very decidedly, "something delicate"; but this something is registered as a gentle sensation like breathing balmy air." Pepper, again, has "no odor," but it is irritating and its application is followed by the usual effects.


The M. family, one characterized incidentally by much stammering; by an early and complete loss of the incisors; by frequent hernia; a thumb nearly twice the normal width; excessive sex interest; and, very considerable mental powers, contains several individuals abnormal in their sensitivity to odors.

Among the immediate sibs of M. himself, two sisters are normal in this respect. One brother exactly duplicates M. and another has some slight capacity in detecting odors. The mother of these sibs was unable to detect odors and her father, in turn, is reported to have been similarly deficient.

Off-hand there are certain resemblances here to sex-linked inheritance. It is necessary only to assume that the mother had the necessary double dosage in order to have a fairly typical case. Moreover the likelihood of this interpretation being correct is enhanced by a circumstance which to some may appear to cloud

the issue, namely, M. has a cousin defective in the same sense. This cousin is the daughter of a paternal aunt whose husband, from quite another family, is "smell-blind."

"After making inquiries," M. writes," among people I know to be from my former place of residence, I came to the conclusion that that locality inbreeds this defect so that quite a number are afflicted with it."

This, in case the trait is sex-linked, is exactly the condition necessary to explain the relatively large number of duplex females herein recorded.

Whatever may or may not be true, the trait has reappeared in one collateral and two direct generations. This is sufficiently frequent to warrant the assumption that "smell-blindness" is heritable, and, from its behavior in this pedigree, it should not be very surprising if further evidence were to place it in the list

of sex-linked characters.




IN an article entitled "Botany after the War," Professor Bradley M. Davis1 discusses the changes which a period of war adjustment is likely to bring to the teaching of botany in introductory courses. It is not necessary to read between the lines to detect that Professor Davis will welcome the changes that he anticipates. His interest is chiefly directed to the relegation of morphology-especially the morphology of types-to a less commanding position then it now enjoys. His general thesis is well embodied in his closing interrogation whether the first course will not "come more and more strongly to stand out as one that attempts nothing more than the grounding of fundamental principles and a selection of information with rather definite reference to its general and practical interests, or its broad philosophical bearing."

The writer has not followed the discussion 1 SCIENCE, N. S., Vol. 48, November 22, 1918, pp. 514-515.

in the New Phytologist, but the reference to it made in the cited article leads him to infer that the ideal course in botany has been realized in few, perhaps none, of our institutions. Such an inference with regard to botany seems not at all unnatural to one who is acquainted with the situation in the teaching of its sister science zoology. In the latter subject the type course has long been the dominant one, almost the exclusive one, an inheritance from the time when zoology was a purely morphological science. Several books, it is true, have been in recent years described by their authors as the product of a revolt against the type course; but they mostly contain internal evidence that the laboratory courses which they accompany in the authors' own laboratories still consist largely of the dissection of types. While these teachers recognize that fundamental principles, rather than a knowledge of animal types, is the desirable acquisition of the beginning student, they have not had the courage to make that acquisition possible in the laboratory as well as in the recitation and lecture.

There is no fundamental reason why the work of the laboratory may not be grouped exclusively around general principles instead of around phyla and classes. Why allow demonstration of the tenets of the cell doctrine to be picked up piece-meal in several courses when a brief exercise on a number of unrelated organisms accomplishes the same purpose more completely at the outset? The simpler activities of protoplasm may be studied even by beginners, by introducing at one time organisms from widely different groups. The firsthand study of the principles of ecology does not require a knowledge of large animal associations, but can be satisfactorily based upon two or three forms taken from different phyla; and it is seldom necessary to know regarding any one of these animals more than a small fraction of the anatomical facts which a type course would include, to explain for the beginner the relation of that animal to its habitat. In the type course homology must be taught very incidentally in almost arbitrary connection with some one form, or must wait until

a number of closely related types have been dissected; and in the meantime the student is endeavoring to assimilate a classification with out a knowledge of the chief practical means of establishing a system of taxonomy. Nor is taxonomy itself necessarily excluded when types are abandoned. An exercise in which the principles of taxonomy are made clear by illustrative material from the whole animal kingdom gives the student a better conception both of classification and of the groups of animals than anything less than a very long type course could be expected to do. And finally, the argument that a type course exhibits a splendid evolutionary series loses its force when types may be supplanted by much better evidence from vertebrate and invertebrate fossils, from geographical distribution, and other sources. Moreover, certain phyla, as the echinoderms, never did have much evolutionary significance, when taken in connection with other phyla, yet the usual type course includes at least one echinoderm.

The objection is sometimes raised that a course based on principles instead of types gives a full knowledge of not a single animal. This objection, however, comes only from those to whom zoology has a special interest, and who will go on for advanced work in the same field; and in their second course they will get that complete information about some one animal which they desire. An elementary course based on principles should therefore be the best foundation for students of all grades of interest. To him who will never pursue another course in biology it gives the very things that will be of interest or value. To him who will specialize in the subject, it affords the best possible framework into which the details subsequently acquired can be fitted.

Unlike courses in elementary botany, if Profesor Davis's paper is correctly interpreted, the course in zoology based on principles does not await the future for its realization. In at least one institution such a course is now in operation. In the University of Michigan the first course in zoology is of the kind described. Dissection of types is no longer practised, the entire laboratory work being collected around

principles. It is a truly general course; first hand knowledge of the elementary facts from each of the main divisions of zoology is gained in the laboratory and from these facts fundamental principles are derived. It has been in operation for several years, and has more than justified its introduction. Such a course makes new demands on the text-book and on the mode of teaching, but these difficulties can be removed. It is likely to be a little more expensive to install than the type course, but its current expenses may well be less.

The sponsors of this course regard it as the best kind of course, whether after the war, during the war, or any other time. Whatever of practical or applied biology it contains is there, not for any benefit that may accrue to the nation in times of stress, but because of its general interest and importance. For it is clear that the amount of applied biology that could be included in a beginning course would not enable any one save his country, unless increased by practical courses to follow.

In pedagogical method the course on principles need not differ from the type course. The inductive method may be as consistently employed. Accuracy in observation is just as necessary. Correctness of interpretation is quite as essential. But this difference exists: the thing observed is itself of interest, or the interpretation is important. Features of an animal which are not of interest or are not important are omitted.




TO THE EDITOR OF SCIENCE: The statement adopted by the Inter-Allied Conference held in London under the auspices of the Royal Society, SCIENCE, November 22, page 509, as a preamble to certain resolutions which are to be made public later, directs attention to the serious difficulties which the recent war has imposed on the international scientific projects already inaugurated and on those under consideration. As these projects are of common interest it can scarcely be expected that a

certain set of resolutions adopted before the close of the war will furnish a final solution of these difficulties, notwithstanding the eminence of those directly concerned in drafting or in adopting the resolutions.

The great scientific progress since the Middle Ages has been largely due to the separation, mental or statutory, of concepts or institutions of fundamental human interests. As instances, we may refer to the separation of church and state, of knowledge and superstition. It would seem very unfortunate if we should now allow moral and ethical questions to becloud our vision as regards scientific merits or demerits. We all welcome exposures of unfair scientific dealings practised persistently by such large numbers as to constitute national characteristics, but if these exposures are to be really effective they should bear evidence of the fact that the accused had a fair chance to defend themselves. Hence the need of open international scientific conferences seems to be greater now than before the

[blocks in formation]

A RESOLUTION of the Inter-Allied Scientific Food Commission, which does not appear to have attracted as much notice as it deserves, dealt with the need of establishing national laboratories for the study of human nutrition. The commission pointed out that, as at least one quarter of the whole income of a nation was devoted to the purchase of food by its individual citizens, it was a matter of the highest importance for the welfare and prosperity of a country that the methods of utilizing its food resources in the best way should be explored and definitely established on the basis of scientific data. The commission therefore adopted a resolution urging the allied governments to establish national laboratories to be devoted to the task. There is no doubt that the want of such a laboratory will be especially felt in the United Kingdom, where the husbanding of our food resources is likely

to remain imperative longer than in countries which are normally nearly self-supporting.

The contrast between the extent to which the study of human metabolism has been fostered by the state or left to private enterprise in England and the United States is little to the credit of our rulers. Nor can it be pleaded in extenuation of the neglect that English men of science have shown no signs of being attracted by the problems of nutrition and metabolism. On the contrary, without any depreciation of the labors of such Americans as Atwater and Benedict, or such Germans as Rubner, we can justly claim that the present generation of English physiologists has made contributions to the science of nutrition equal in value to anything which has been achieved elsewhere. We need merely cite the brilliant researches into the chemical mechanisms of digestion which we owe to Starling and Bayliss, the work of Hopkins and his pupils on protein metabolism, and the succession of important contributions to the study of deficiency diseases which have come from the laboratories of the Lister Institute, culminating in the recent work of Dr. Chick and her collaborators.

Since the war the Royal Society, by the agency of its food (war) committee, has, with little official aid and, at times, in spite of official indifference or neglect, done much to bring the subject of national dietetics under proper scientific guidance, but we are of opinion that its work will not be extended and made of permanent value to the nation unless effect is given to the Inter-Allied Commission's proposal.

We shall endeavor to make the reason plain by considering one only of the topics within the scope of nutritional research. The InterAllied Commission mentioned the need of determining the amount of food required to maintain the health and strength of persons engaged in different occupations. As we had to point out some time since, when the policy of the food controller received less inspiration from scientific sources than has happily been the case during the past twelve months, the broad distinctions between class and class, the

« PreviousContinue »