Cornhill Magazine,  6 (1862), 398–411.

Our Survey of Literature, Science, and Art

[George H Lewes] / [John F W Herschel] / [Charles H Aidé]


Regular Feature, Review-Essay


Health, Medical Treatment, Natural Law, Positivism, Human Species, Descent, Comparative Anatomy, Darwinism, Evolution, Physiology, Astronomy, Spectroscopy, Magnetism, Industrial Chemistry

    In the section on Art penned by Lewes, he notes that Julius Althaus's The Spas of Europe is 'not a guide book', but rather 'an elaborate compilation of all the scientific knowledge hitherto gained respecting the nature and composition of the several waters, and of all that is known (or supposed, we might more rigorously say) respecting their physiological action, and their uses in various maladies' (401). A 'philosophical work [...] published anonymously under the title' An Inquiry into the Theory of History, with Special Reference to the Principles of the Positive Philosophy [written by William Adam] is 'devoted to a guerrilla warfare with Auguste Comte and the positive school generally; and the stronghold from which all [its] sorties are made is the position that the anti-theistic positivism of Comte is not thoroughly positive, that in affirming law and denying a lawgiver, Comte sins against the principles of true positivism'. This criticism is 'sometimes just, sometimes ingenious, but not unfrequently, on cardinal points, inconsiderate and superficial'. (401–02) In the Science section written by Herschel, he reports that 'Sir Charles Lyell's work' on the 'deeply-interesting, and therefore hotly-contested, questions mooted in scientific circles' as to the 'antiquity of our race' is 'awaited with impatience'. Also notes that recent 'discoveries of human remains' seem to make clear the 'pre-historic existence of man', and adds that these early skulls 'strongly resemble the gorilla in a character always insisted on, and justly, as distinguishing the apes from man'. Considers whether 'the human species is making a step on Darwinian principles, towards the acquirement of some new organs, for which preparations are commencing (and which may land us in the ten or hundred thousandth future generation in the possession of wings)'. (403) After all, in the Transactions of the Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg Wenzel Gruber has recorded 'cases [...] of the presence, in the human subject, of supernumerary muscles of the chest', which 'must evidently impart material additional strength to the inward contraction of the shoulders' (403–04). Refers to the work of Georg Meissner and Leopold Auerbach on the submucosal 'plexus of nerves and ganglia' of the intestinal wall, and the 'opposition' with which this 'discovery' has been 'stoutly contested' (404). Reports on Giovan B Donati's attempts to form 'a spectrum of the light of a star [...] by means of the great burning lens in the Florentine Museum [...]—the same which served the academicians under Cosmo III.'. The results which he has thereby obtained, however, are 'scarcely compatible' with the fine dark spectral lines observed previously by Joseph Fraunhofer (406). Herschel recommends that 'from our own experience, we should hardly assent to' many of Donati's findings, and advises that it is 'highly desirable that such very material points of discrepancy between such authorities should be cleared up without delay' (406). Complains at the waste of the fatty parts of eggs caused by the need for 'the albumen consumed by the calico manufacturers', and commends the news that 'French chemists have set about manufacturing soap from the yolk, by the action of alkalis on its fatty matters' (408).

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