Scientific American Supplement, No. 384, May 12, 1883
Part 2 out of 3
copper staples and formed the return circuit, the current being conveyed
to the car through a T iron placed upon short standards, and insulated
by means of insulate caps. For the present the power was produced by
a steam engine at Portrush, giving motion to a shunt-wound dynamo of
15,000 watts=20 horse power, but arrangements were in progress to
utilize a waterfall of ample power near Bush Mills, by means of three
turbines of 40 horse power each, now in course of erection. The working
speed of this line was restricted by the Board of Trade to ten miles an
hour, which was readily obtained, although the gradients of the line
were decidedly unfavorable, including an incline of two miles in length
at a gradient of 1 in 38. It was intended to extend the line six miles
beyond Bush Mills, in order to join it at Dervock station with the north
of Ireland narrow gauge railway system.
The electric system of propulsion was, in the lecturer's opinion,
sufficiently advanced to assure practical success under suitable
circumstances--such as for suburban tramways, elevated lines, and
above all lines through tunnels; such as the Metropolitan and District
Railways. The advantages were that the weight, of the engine, so
destructive of power and of the plant itself in starting and stopping,
would be saved, and that perfect immunity from products of combustion
would be insured The experience at Lichterfelde, at Paris, and another
electric line of 765 yards in length, and 2 ft. 2 in. gauge, worked
in connection with the Zaukerode Colliery since October, 1882, were
extremely favorable to this mode of propulsion. The lecturer however
did not advocate its prospective application in competition with the
locomotive engine for main lines of railway. For tramways within
populous districts, the insulated conductor involved a serious
difficulty. It would be more advantageous under these circumstances to
resort to secondary batteries, forming a store of electrical energy
carried under the seats of the car itself, and working a dynamo machine
connected with the moving wheels by means of belts and chains.
The secondary battery was the only available means of propelling vessels
by electrical power, and considering that these batteries might be made
to serve the purpose of keel ballast, their weight, which was still
considerable, would not be objectionable. The secondary battery was not
an entirely new conception. The hydrogen gas battery suggested by Sir
Wm. Grove in 1841, and which was shown in operation, realized in the
most perfect manner the conception of storage, only that the power
obtained from it was exceedingly slight. The lecturer, in working upon
Sir Wm. Grove's conception, had twenty-five years ago constructed
a battery of considerable power in substituting porous carbon for
platinum, impregnating the same with a precipitate of lead peroxidized
by a charging current. At that time little practical importance attached
however to the object, and even when Plante, in 1860, produced his
secondary battery, composed of lead plates peroxidized by a charging
current, little more than scientific curiosity was excited. It was
only since the dynamo machine had become an accomplished fact that
the importance of this mode of storing energy had become of practical
importance, and great credit was due to Faure, to Sellon, and to
Volckmar for putting this valuable addition to practical science into
available forms. A question of great interest in connection with the
secondary battery had reference to its permanence. A fear had been
expressed by many that local action would soon destroy the fabric of
which it was composed, and that the active surfaces would become coated
with sulphate of lead, preventing further action. It had, however,
lately been proved in a paper read by Dr. Frankland before the Royal
Society, corroborated by simultaneous investigations by Dr. Gladstone
and Mr. Tribe, that the action of the secondary battery depended
essentially upon the alternative composition and decomposition of
sulphate of lead, which was therefore not an enemy, but the best friend
to its continued action.
In conclusion, the lecturer referred to electric nomenclature, and to
the means for measuring and recording the passage of electric energy.
When he addressed the British Association at Southampton, he had
ventured to suggest two electrical units additional to those established
at the Electrical Congress in 1881, viz.: the watt and the joule,
in order to complete the chain of units connecting electrical with
mechanical energy and with the unit quantity of heat. He was glad to
find that this suggestion had met with a favorable reception, especially
that of the watt, which was convenient for expressing in an intelligible
manner the effective power of a dynamo machine, and for giving a precise
idea of the number of lights or effective power to be realized by its
current, as well as of the engine power necessary to drive it; 746 watts
represented 1 horse-power.
Finally, the watt meter, an instrument recently developed by his firm,
was shown in operation. This consisted simply of a coil of thick
conductor suspended by a torsion wire, and opposed laterally to a fixed
coil of wire of high resistance. The current to be measured flowed
through both coils in parallel circuit, the one representing its
quantity expressible in amperes, and the other its potential expressible
in volts. Their joint attractive action expressed therefore volt-amperes
or watts, which were read off upon a scale of equal divisions.
The lecture was illustrated by experiments, and by numerous diagrams and
tables of results. Measuring instruments by Professors Ayrton and Perry,
by Mr. Edison and by Mr. Boys, were also exhibited.
* * * * *
ON THE PREPARATION OF GELATINE PLATES.
[Footnote: Being an abstract of the introductory lecture to a course on
photography at the Polytechnic Institute, November 11.]
By E. HOWARD FARMER, F.C.S.
Since the first announcement of these lectures, our Secretary has asked
me to give a free introductory lecture, so that all who are interested
in the subject may come and gather a better idea as to them than they
can possibly do by simply leading a prospectus. This evening, therefore,
I propose to give first a typical lecture of the course, and secondly,
at its conclusion, to say a few words as to our principal object. As the
subject for this evening's lecture I have chosen, "The Preparation of
Gelatine Plates," as it is probably one of very general interest to
Before preparing our emulsion, we must first decide upon the particular
materials we are going to use, and of these the first requisite is
nitrate of silver. Nitrate of silver is supplied by chemists in three
1. The ordinary crystallized salt, prepared by dissolving silver in
nitric acid, and evaporating the solution until the salt crystallizes
out. This sample usually presents the appearance of imperfect crystals,
having a faint yellowish tinge, and a strong odor of nitrous fumes, and
contains, as might be expected, a considerable amount of free acid.
2. Fused nitrate, or "lunar caustic," prepared by fusing the
crystallized salt and casting it into sticks. Lunar caustic is usually
alkaline to test paper.
3. Recrystallized silver nitrate, prepared by redissolving the ordinary
salt in distilled water, and again evaporating to the crystallizing
point. By this means the impurities and free acid are removed.
I have a specimen of this on the table, and it consists, as you observe,
of fine crystals which are perfectly colorless and transparent; it is
also perfectly neutral to test paper. No doubt either of these samples
can be used with success in preparing emulsions, but to those who are
inexperienced, I recommend that the recrystallized salt be employed. We
make, then, a solution of recrystallized silver nitrate in distilled
water, containing in every 12 ounces of solution 11/4 ounces of the salt.
The next material we require is a soluble bromide. I have here specimens
of various bromides which can be employed, such as ammonium, potassium,
barium, and zinc bromides; as a rule, however, either the ammonium or
potassium salt is used, and I should like to say a few words respecting
the relative efficiency of these two salts.
1. As to ammonium bromide. This substance is a highly unstable salt.
A sample of ammonium bromide which is perfectly neutral when first
prepared will, on keeping, be found to become decidedly acid in
character. Moreover, during this decomposition, the percentage of
bromine does not remain constant; as a rule, it will be found to contain
more than the theoretical amount of bromine. Finally, all ammonium salts
have a most destructive action on gelatine; if gelatine, which has
been boiled for a short time with either ammonium bromide or ammonium
nitrate, be added to an emulsion, it will be found to produce pink
fog--and probably frilling--on plates prepared with the emulsion. For
these reasons, I venture to say that ammonium bromide, which figures so
largely in formulae for gelatine emulsions, is one of the worst bromides
that can be employed for that purpose, and is, indeed, a frequent source
of pink fog and frilling.
2. As to potassium bromide. This is a perfectly stable substance, can be
readily obtained pure, and is constant in composition; neither has it
(nor the nitrate) any appreciable destructive action on gelatine. We
prepare, then, a solution of potassium bromide in water containing in
every 12 ounces of solution 1 ounce of the salt. On testing it with
litmus paper, the solution may be either slightly alkaline or neutral;
in either case, it should be faintly acidified with hydrochloric acid.
The last material we require is the gelatine, one of the most important,
and at the same time the most difficult substance to obtain of good
quality. I have various samples here--notably Nelson's No. 1 and "X
opaque;" Coignet's gold medal; Heinrich's; the Autotype Company's; and
The only method I know of securing a uniform quality of gelatine is to
purchase several small samples, make a trial emulsion with each, and buy
a stock of the sample which gives the best results. To those who do not
care to go to this trouble, equal quantities of Nelson's No. 1 and
X opaque, as recommended by Captain Abney, can be employed. Having
selected the gelatine, 11/4 ounces should be allowed to soak in water, and
then melted, when it will be found to have a bulk of about 6 ounces.
In order to prepare our emulsion, I take equal bulks of the silver
nitrate and potassium bromide solutions in beakers, and place them in
the water bath to get hot. I also take an equal bulk of hot water in a
large beaker, and add to it one-half an ounce of the gelatine solution
to every 12 ounces of water. Having raised all these to about 180 deg. F., I
add (as you observe) to the large beaker containing the dilute gelatine
a little of the bromide, then, through a funnel having a fine orifice,
a little of the silver, swirling the liquid round during the operation;
then again some bromide and silver, and so on until all is added.
When this is completed, a little of the emulsion is poured on a glass
plate, and examined by transmitted light; if the mixing be efficient,
the light will appear--as it does here--of an orange or orange red
It will be observed that we keep the bromide in excess while mixing. I
must not forget to mention that to those experienced in mixing, by
far the best method is that described by Captain Abney in his Cantor
lectures, of keeping the silver in excess.
The emulsion, being properly mixed, has now to be placed in the water
bath, and kept at the boiling point for forty-five minutes. As,
obviously, I cannot keep you waiting while this is done, I propose to
divide our emulsion into two portions, allowing one portion to stew, and
to proceed with the next operation with the remainder.
Supposing, then, this emulsion has been boiled, it is placed in cold
water to cool. While it is cooling, let us consider for a moment what
takes place during the boiling. It is found that during this time the
emulsion undergoes two remarkable changes:
1. The molecules of silver bromide gradually aggregate together, forming
larger and larger particles.
2. The emulsion increases rapidly in sensitiveness. Now what is the
cause, in the first place, of this aggregation of molecules: and, in the
second place, of the increase of sensitiveness? We know that the two
invariably go together, so that we are right in concluding that the same
cause produces both.
It might be thought that heat is the cause, but the same changes take
place more slowly in the cold, so we can only say that heat accelerates
the action, and hence must conclude that the prime cause is one of the
materials in the emulsion itself.
Now, besides the silver bromide, we have in the emulsion water,
gelatine, potassium nitrate, and a small excess of potassium bromide;
and in order to find which of these is the cause, we must make different
emulsions, omitting in succession each of these materials. Suppose we
take an emulsion which has just been mixed, and, instead of boiling
it, we precipitate the gelatine and silver bromide with alcohol; on
redissolving the pellicle in the same quantity of water, we have an
emulsion the same as previously, with the exception that the niter and
excess of potassium bromide are absent. If such an emulsion be boiled,
we shall find the remarkable fact that, however long it be boiled, the
silver bromide undergoes no change, neither does the emulsion become
any more sensitive. We therefore conclude, that either the niter or the
small excess of potassium bromide, or both together, produce the change.
Now take portions of a similarly washed emulsion, and add to one portion
some niter, and to another some potassium bromide; on boiling these
we find that the one containing niter does not change, while that
containing the potassium bromide rapidly undergoes the changes
Here, then, by a direct appeal to experiment, we prove that to all
appearance comparatively useless excess of potassium bromide is really
one of the most important constituents of the emulsion.
The following table gives some interesting results respecting this
action of potassium bromide:
Excess of potash bromide. | Time to acquire maximum |
| sensitiveness. |
0.2 grain per ounce | no increase after six hours. |
2.0 " " | about one-half an hour. |
20.0 " " | seven minutes. |
I must here leave the _rationale_ of the process for the present, and
proceed with the next operation.
Our emulsion being cold, I add to it, for every 6 ounces of mixed
emulsion, 1 ounce of a saturated cold solution of potassium bichromate;
then, gently swirling the mixture round, a few drops of a dilute (1 to
8) solution of hydrochloric acid, and place it on one side for a minute
When hydrochloric acid is added to bichromate of potash, chromic acid is
liberated. Now, chromic acid has the property of precipitating gelatine,
so that what I hope to have done is to have precipitated the gelatine in
this emulsion, and which will carry down the silver bromide as well. You
see here I can pour off the supernatant liquid clear, leaving our silver
and gelatine as a clot at the bottom of the vessel.
Another action of chromic acid is, that it destroys the action of light
on silver bromide, so that up to this point operations can be carried on
in broad daylight.
The precipitated emulsion is now taken into the dark room and washed
until the wash water shows no trace of color; if there be a large
quantity, this is best done on a fine muslin filter; if a small
quantity, by decantation.
Having been thoroughly washed, I dissolve the pellicle in water by
immersing the beaker containing it in the water bath. I then add the
remaining gelatine, and make up the whole with 3 ounces of alcohol and
water to 30 ounces for the quantities given. I pass the emulsion through
a funnel containing a pellet of cotton wool in order to filter it, and
it is ready for coating the plates.
To coat a plate, I place it on this small block of leveled wood, and
pour on down a glass rod a small quantity of the emulsion, and by means
of the rod held horizontally, spread it over the plate. I then transfer
the plate to this leveled slab of plate glass, in order that the
emulsion on it may set. As soon as set, it is placed in the drying box.
This process, as here described, does not give plates of the highest
degree of sensitiveness, to attain which a further operation is
necessary; they are, however, of exceedingly good quality, and very
suitable for landscape work.--_Photo. News_.
* * * * *
PICTURES ON GLASS.
The invention of M. E. Godard, of Paris, has for its object the
reproduction of images and drawings, by means of vitrifiable colors on
glass, wood, stone, on canvas or paper prepared for oil-painting and on
other substances having polished surfaces, e. g., earthenware, copper,
etc. The original drawings or images should be well executed, and drawn
on white, or preferably bluish paper, similar to paper used for ordinary
drawings. In the patterns for glass painting, by this process, the place
to be occupied is marked by the lead, before cutting the glass to suit
the various shades which compose the color of a panel, as is usually
done in this kind of work; the operation changes only when the glass
cutter hands these sheets over to the man who undertakes the painting.
The sheets of glass are cut according to the lines of the drawing, and
after being well cleaned, they are placed on the paper on the places for
which they have been cut out. If the window to be stained is of large
size and consists of several panels, only one panel is proceeded with
at a time. The glass is laid on the reverse side of the paper (the side
opposite to the drawing), the latter having been made transparent by
saturating it with petroleum. This operation also serves to fix the
outlines of the drawing more distinctly, and to give more vigor to the
dark tone of the paper. When the paper is thus prepared, and the sheets
of glass each in its place, they are coated by means of a brush with
a sensitizing solution on the side which comes into contact with the
paper. This coating should be as thin and as uniform as possible on
the surface of the glass. For more perfectly equalizing the coating, a
second brush is used.
The sensitizing solution which serves to produce the verifiable image is
prepared as follows: Bichromate of ammonia is dissolved in water till
the latter is saturated; five grammes of powdered dextrin or glucose are
then dissolved in 100 grammes of water; to either of these solutions
is added 10 per cent. of the solution of bichromate, and the mixture
The coating of the glass takes place immediately afterward in a dark
room; the coated sheets are then subjected to a heat of 50 deg. or 60 deg. C.
(120 deg. to 140 deg. Fahr.) in a small hot chamber, where they are laid one
after the other on a wire grating situated 35 centimeters above the
bottom. Care should be taken not to introduce the glass under treatment
into the hot chamber before the required degree of heat has been
obtained. A few seconds are sufficient to dry each sheet, and the wire
grating should be large enough to allow of the dried glass being laid in
rows, on one side where the heat is less intense. For the reproduction
of the pictures or images a photographic copying frame of the size of
the original is used. A stained glass window being for greater security
generally divided into different panels, the size of one panel is seldom
more than one square meter. If the picture to be reproduced should be
larger in size than any available copying frame, the prepared glass
sheets are laid between two large sheets of plate-glass, and part after
part is proceeded with, by sliding the original between the two sheets.
A photographic copying frame, however, is always preferable, as it
presses the glass sheets better against the original. The original
drawing is laid fiat on the glass of the frame. The lines where the lead
is to connect the respective sheets of glass are marked on the drawing
with blue or red pencil. The prepared sheets of glass are then placed
one after the other on the original in their respective places, so that
the coated side comes in contact with the original. The frame is then
closed. It should be borne in mind that the latter operations must be
performed in the dark room. The closed frame is now exposed to light. If
the operations are performed outdoors, the frame is laid flat, so that
the light falls directly on it; if indoors, the frame is placed inclined
behind a window, so that it may receive the light in front. The time
necessary for exposing the frame depends upon the light and the
temperature; for instance, if the weather is fine and cloudless and the
temperature from 16 deg. to 18 deg. C. (60 deg. to 64 deg. Fahr.), it will require from
12 to 15 minutes.
It will be observed that the time of exposure also depends on the
thickness of the paper used for the original. If, however, the weather
is dark, it requires from 30 to 50 minutes for the exposure. It will be
observed that if the temperature is above 25 deg. C. (about 80 deg. Fahr.), the
sheets of glass should be kept very cool and be less dried; otherwise,
when exposed the sheets are instantly metallized, and the reproduction
cannot take place. The same inconvenience takes place if the temperature
is beneath 5 deg. C. (41 deg. Fahr.). In this case the sheets should be kept
warm, and care should be taken not to expose the frame to the open air,
but always behind a glass window at a temperature of from 14 deg. to 18 deg.
C. (about 60 deg. Fahr.). The time necessary for the exposure can be
ascertained by taking out one of the many pieces of glass, applying to
the sensitive surface a vitrifiable color, and observing whether the
color adheres well. If the color adheres but slightly to the dark, shady
portions of the image, the exposure has been too long, and the process
must be recommenced; if, on the contrary, the color adheres too well,
the exposure has not been sufficient, the frames must be closed again,
and the exposure continued. When the frame has been sufficiently
exposed, it is taken into the dark room, the sensitized pieces of glass
laid on a plate of glass or marble with the sensitive surface turned
upward, and the previously prepared vitrifiable color strewed over it by
means of a few light strokes of a brush. This powder does not adhere to
the parts of the picture fully exposed to light, but adheres only to the
more or less shady portions of the picture. This operation develops
on the glass the image as it is on the paper. Thirty to 40 grammes
of nitric acid are added to 1,000 grammes of wood-spirit, such as is
generally used in photography, and the prepared pieces of glass are
dipped into the bath, leaving them afterward to dry. If the bath becomes
of a yellowish color, it must be renewed. This bath has for its object
to remove the coating of bichromate, so as to allow the color to adhere
to the glass, from which it has been separated by the layer of glucose
and bichromate, which would prevent the vitrification. The bath has also
for its object to render the light parts of the picture perfectly
pure and capable of being easily retouched or painted by hand. The
application of variously colored enamels and the heating are then
effected as in ordinary glass painting. The same process may be applied
to marble, wood, stone, lava, canvas prepared for oil painting,
earthenware, pure or enameled iron. The result is the same in all cases,
and the process is the same as with glass, with the difference only that
the above named materials are not dipped into the bath, but the liquid
is poured over the objects after the latter have been placed in an
* * * * *
PREPARATION OF HYDROGEN SULPHIDE FROM COAL-GAS.
By I. TAYLOR, B.A., Science Master at Christ College, Brecon.
Hydrogen sulphide may be prepared very easily, and sufficiently pure
for ordinary analytical purposes, by passing coal-gas through boiling
sulphur. Coal-gas contains 40 to 50 per cent, of hydrogen, nearly the
whole of which may, by means of a suitable arrangement, be converted
into sulphureted hydrogen. The other constituents of coal-gas--methane,
carbon monoxide, olefines, etc.--are not affected by passing through
boiling sulphur, and for ordinary laboratory work their removal is quite
unnecessary, as they do not in any way interfere with the precipitation
of metallic sulphides.
[Illustration: PREPARATION OF HYDROGEN SULPHIDE FROM COAL-GAS.]
A convenient apparatus for the preparation of hydrogen sulphide from
coal-gas, such as we have at present in use in the Christ College
laboratory, consists of a retort, R, in which sulphur is placed.
Through the tubulure of the retort there passes a bent glass-tube, T E,
perforated near the closed end, F, with a number of small holes. (The
perforations are easily made by piercing the partially softened glass
with a white-hot steel needle; an ordinary crotchet needle, the hook
having been removed and the end sharpened, answers the purpose very
well.) The end, T, of the glass tube is connected by caoutchouc tubing
with the coal-gas supply, the perforated end dipping into the sulphur.
The neck of the retort, inclined slightly upward to allow the condensed
sulpur, as it remelts, to flow back, is connected with awash bottle, B,
to which is attached the flask, F, containing the solution through which
it is required to pass the hydrogen sulphide; F is connected with an
About one pound of sulphur having been introduced into the retort and
heated to the boiling-point, the tap of the aspirator is turned on and
a current of coal-gas drawn through the boiling sulphur; the hydrogen
sulphide formed is washed by the water contained in B, passes on into
F, and finally into the aspirator. The speed of the current may be
regulated by the tap, and as the aspirator itself acts as a receptacle
for excess of gas, very little as a rule escapes into the room, and
consequently unpleasant smells are avoided.
This method of preparing sulphureted hydrogen will, I think, be found
useful in the laboratory. It is cleanly, much cheaper than the ordinary
method, and very convenient. During laboratory work, a burner is placed
under the retort and the sulphur kept hot, so that its temperature may
be quickly raised to the boiling-point when the gas is required. From
time to time it is necessary to replenish the retort with sulphur and to
remove the condensed portions from the neck.--_Chem. News_.
* * * * *
"SETTING" OF GYPSUM.--This setting is the result of two distinct, though
simultaneous, phenomena. On the one hand, portions of anhydrous calcium
sulphate, when moistened with water, dissolve as they are hydrated,
forming a supersaturated solution. On the other hand, this same solution
deposits crystals of the hydrated sulphate, gradually augment in bulk,
and unite together.--_H. Le Chatellier_.
* * * * *
[Continued from SUPPLEMENT No. 383, page 6118.]
By JAMES H. SALISBURY, A.M., M.D.
PRIZE ESSAY OF THE ALBANY MEDICAL COLLEGE ALUMNI ASSOCIATION, FEB.,
I have made careful microscopic examinations of the blood in several
cases of Panama fever I have treated, and find in all severe cases many
of the colorless corpuscles filled more or less with spores of ague
vegetation and the serum quite full of the same spores (see Fig. N,
Mr. John Thomas. Panama fever. Vegetation in blood and colorless
corpuscles. (Fig N, Plate VIII.) Vegetation, spores of, in the colorless
corpuscles of the blood. Spores in serum of blood adhering to fibrin
Mr. Thomas has charge of the bridge building on the Tehuantepec
Railroad. Went there about one year ago. Was taken down with the fever
last October. Returned home in February last, all broken down. Put him
under treatment March 15, 1882. Gained rapidly (after washing him out
with hot water, and getting his urine clear and bowels open every day)
on two grains of quinia every day, two hours, till sixteen doses were
taken. After an interval of seven days, repeated the quinia, and so on.
This fever prevails on all the low lands, as soon as the fresh soil
is exposed to the drying rays of the sun. The vegetation grows on the
drying soil, and the spores rise in the night air, and fall after
sunrise. All who are exposed to the night air, which is loaded with the
spores, suffer with the disease. The natives of the country suffer about
as badly as foreigners. Nearly half of the workmen die of the disease.
The fever is a congestive intermittent of a severe type.
Henry Thoman. Leucocythaemia. Spleen 11 inches in diameter, two white
globules to one red. German. Thirty-six years of age. Weight, 180
pounds. Colorless corpuscles very large and varying much in size, as
seen at N. Corpuscles filled--many of them--with the spores of ague
vegetation. Also spores swimming in serum.
This man has been a gardener back of Hoboken on ague lands, and has had
ague for two years preceding this disease.
I will now introduce a communication made to me by a medical gentleman
who has followed somewhat my researches for many years, and has taken
great pains of time and expense to see if my researches are correct.
REPORT ON THE CAUSE OF AGUE.--BY DR. EPHRAIM CUTTER, TO THE WRITER
At your request I give the evidence on which I base my opinion that your
plan in relation to ague is true.
From my very start into the medical profession, I had a natural intense
interest in the causes of disease, which was also fostered by my father,
the late Dr. Cutter, who honored his profession nearly forty years.
Hence, I read your paper on ague with enthusiasm, and wrote to you for
some of the plants of which you spoke. You sent me six boxes containing
soil, which you said was full of the gemiasmas. You gave some drawings,
so that I should know the plants when I saw them, and directed me to
moisten the soil with water and expose to air and sunlight. In the
course of a few days I was to proceed to collect. I faithfully followed
the instructions, but without any success. I could detect no plants
This result would have settled the case ordinarily, and I would have
said that you were mistaken, as the material submitted by yourself
failed as evidence. But I thought that there was too much internal
evidence of the truth of your story, and having been for many years
an observer in natural history, I had learned that it is often very
difficult for one to acquire the art of properly making examinations,
even though the procedures are of the simplest description. So I
distrusted, not you, but myself, and hence, you may remember, I forsook
all and fled many hundred miles to you from my home with the boxes you
had sent me. In three minutes after my arrival you showed me how to
collect the plants in abundance from the very soil in the boxes that had
traveled so far backward and forward, from the very specimens on which I
had failed to do so.
The trouble was with me--that I went too deep with my needle. You showed
me it was simply necessary to remove the slightest possible amount on
the point of a cambric needle; deposit this in a drop of clean water on
a slide cover with, a covering glass and put it under your elegant 1/5
inch objective, and there were the gemiasmas just as you had described.
I have always felt humbled by this teaching, and I at the time rejoiced
that instead of denouncing you as a cheat and fraud (as some did at that
time), I did not do anything as to the formation of an opinion until I
had known more and more accurately about the subject.
I found all the varieties of the palmellae you described in the boxes,
and I kept them for several years and demonstrated them as I had
opportunity. You also showed me on this visit the following experiments
that I regarded as crucial:
1st. I saw you scrape from the skin of an ague patient sweat and
epithelium with the spores and the full grown plants of the Gemiasma
2d. I saw you take the sputa of a ague patient and demonstrate the
spores and sporangia of the Gemiasma verdans.
3d. I saw you take the urine of a female patient suffering from ague
(though from motives of delicacy I did not see the urine voided--still I
believe that she did pass the urine, as I did not think it necessary to
insult the patient), and you demonstrated to me beautiful specimens of
Gemiasma rubra. You said it was not common to find the full development
in the urine of such cases, but only in the urine of the old severe
cases. This was a mild case.
4th. I saw you take the blood from the forearm of an ague patient, and
under the microscope I saw you demonstrate the gemiasma, white and
bleached in the blood. You said that the coloring matter did not develop
in the blood, that it was a difficult task to demonstrate the plants in
the blood, that it required usually a long and careful search of hours
sometimes, and at other times the plants would be obtained at once.
When I had fully comprehended the significance of the experiments I was
filled with joy, and like the converts in apostolic times I desired to
go about and promulgate the news to the profession. I did so in many
places, notably in New York city, where I satisfactorily demonstrated
the plants to many eminent physicians at my room at the Fifth Avenue
Hotel; also before a medical society where more than one hundred persons
were present. I did all that I could, but such was the preoccupation of
the medical gentlemen that a respectful hearing was all I got. This is
not to be wondered at, as it was a subject, now, after the lapse of
nearly a decade and a half, quite unstudied and unknown. After this I
studied the plants as I had opportunity, and in 1877 made a special
journey to Long Island, N.Y., for the purpose of studying the plants in
their natural habitat, when they were in a state of maturity. I have
also examined moist soils in localities where ague is occasionally
known, with other localities where it prevails during the warm months.
Below I give the results, which from convenience I divide into two
parts: 1st. Studies of the ague plants in their natural habitat. 2d.
Studies of the ague plants in their unnatural habitat (parasitic). I
think one should know the first before attempting the second.
_First_--Studies to find in their natural habitat the palmellae described
as the Gemiasma rubra, Gemiasma verdans, Gemiasma plumba, Gemiasma alba,
_Second_--_Outfit_.--Glass slides, covers, needles, toothpicks, bottle
of water, white paper and handkerchief, portable microscope with a good
Tolles one inch eyepiece, and one-quarter inch objective.
Wherever there was found on low, marshy soil a white incrustation like
dried salt, a very minute portion was removed by needle or toothpick,
deposited on a slide, moistened with a drop of water, rubbed up with a
needle or toothpick into a uniformly diffused cloud in and through the
water. The cover was put on, and the excess of water removed by touching
with a handkerchief the edge of the cover. Then the capillary attraction
held the cover in place, as is well known. The handkerchief or white
paper was spread on the ground at my feet, and the observation conducted
at once after the collection and on the very habitat. It is possible
thus to conduct observations with the microscope besides in boats on
ponds or sea, and adding a good kerosene light in bed or bunk or on
August 11, 1877.--Excursion to College Point, Flushing, Long Island:
Observation 1. 1:50 P.M. Sun excessively hot. Gathered some of the white
incrustation on sand in a marsh west of Long Island Railroad depot.
Found some Gemiasma verdans, G. rubra; the latter were dry and not good
specimens, but the field swarmed with the automobile spores. The full
developed plant is termed sporangia, and seeds are called spores.
Observation 2. Another specimen from same locality, not good; that is,
forms were seen but they were not decisive and characteristic.
Observation 3. Earth from Wallabout, near Naval Hospital, Brooklyn, Rich
in spores (A) with automobile protoplasmic motions, (B) Gemiasma rubra,
(C) G. verdans, very beautiful indeed. Plants very abundant.
Observation 4. Walking up the track east of L. I. R.R. depot, I took an
incrustation near creek; not much found but dirt and moving spores.
Observation 5. Seated on long marsh grass I scraped carefully from the
stalks near the roots of the grass where the plants were protected from
the action of the sunlight and wind. Found a great abundance of mature
Gemiasma verdans very beautiful in appearance.
_Notes_.--The time of my visit was most unfavorable. The best time is
when the morning has just dawned and the dew is on the grass. One then
can find an abundance, while after the sun is up and the air is hot the
plants disappear; probably burst and scatter the spores in billions,
which, as night comes on and passes, develop into the mature plants,
when they may be found in vast numbers. It would seem from this that the
life epoch of a gemiasma is one day under such circumstances, but I have
known them to be present for weeks under a cover on a slide, when the
slide was surrounded with a bandage wet with water, or kept in a culture
box. The plants may be cultivated any time in a glass with a water
joint. A, Goblet inverted over a saucer; B, filled with water; C, D,
specimen of earth with ague plants.
Observation 6. Some Gemiasma verdaus; good specimens, but scanty.
Innumerable mobile spores. Dried.
Observation 7. Red dust on gray soil. Innumerable mobile spores. Dried
red sporangia of G. rubra.
Observation 8. White incrustation. Innumerable mobile spores. No plants.
Observation 9. White incrustation. Many minute algae, but two sporangia
of a pale pink color; another variety of color of gemiasma. Innumerable
Observation 10. Gemiasma verdans and G. rubra in small quantities.
Innumerable mobile spores.
Observation 11. Specimen taken from under the shade of short marsh
grass. Gemiasma exceedingly rich and beautiful. Innumerable mobile
Observation 12. Good specimens of Gemiasma rubra. Innumerable spores
present in all specimens.
Observation 13. Very good specimens of Protuberans lamella.
Observation 14. The same.
Observation 15. Dead Gemiasma verdans and rubra.
Observation 16. Collection very unpromising by macroscopy, but by
microscopy showed many spores, mature specimens of Gemiasma rubra and
verdans. One empty specimen with double walls.
Observation 17. Dry land by the side of railroad. Protuberans not
Observation 18. From side of ditch. Filled with mature Geraiasma
Observation 19. Moist earth near a rejected timber of the railroad
bridge. Abundance of Gemiasma verdans, Sphaerotheca Diatoms.
Observation 20. Scrapings on earth under high grass. Large mature
specimens of Gemiasma rubra and verdans. Many small.
Observation 21. Same locality. Gemiasma rubra and verdans; good
Observation 22. A dry stem of a last year's annual plant lay in the
ditch not submerged, that appeared as if painted red with iron rust.
This redness evidently made up of Gemiasma rubra dried.
Observation 23. A twig submerged in a ditch was scraped. Gemiasma
verdans found abundantly with many other things, which if rehearsed
would cloud this story.
Observation 24. Scrapings from the dirty end of the stick (23) gave
specimens of the beautiful double wall palmellae and some empty G.
Observation 25. Stirred up the littoral margins of the ditch with stick
found in the path, and the drip showed Gemiasma rubra and verdans mixed
in with dirt, debris, other algae, fungi, infusoria, especially diatoms.
Observation 26. I was myself seized with sneezing and discharge running
from nostrils during these examinations. Some of the contents of
the right nostril were blown on a slide, covered, and examined
morphologically. Several oval bodies, round algae, were found with the
characteristics of G. verdans and rubra. Also some colorless sporangia,
and spores abundantly present. These were in addition to the normal
morphological elements found in the excretions.
Observation 27. Dried clay on margin of the river showed dry G. verdans.
Observation 28. Saline dust on earth that had been thrown out during the
setting of a new post in the railroad bridge showed some Gemiasma alba.
Observation 29. The dry white incrustation found on fresh earth near
railroad track entirely away from water, where it appeared as if
white sugar or sand had been sprinkled over in a fine dust, showed
an abundance of automobile spores and dry sporangia of G. rubra and
verdans. It was not made up of salts from evaporation.
Observation 30. Some very thick, long, green, matted marsh grass was
carefully separated apart like the parting of thick hair on the head. A
little earth was taken from the crack, and the Protuberans lamella, the
Gemiasma rubra and verdans found were beautiful and well developed.
Observation 31. Brooklyn Naval Hospital, August 12, 1877, 4 A.M. Called
up by the Quartermaster. With Surgeon C. W. White, U.S.N., took (A) one
five inch glass beaker, bottomless, (B) three clean glass slides, (C)
chloride of calcium solution, [symbol: dra(ch)m] i to [symbol: ounce] i
water. We went, as near as I could judge in the darkness, to about that
portion of the wall that lies west of the hospital, southeast corner
(now all filled up), where on the 10th of August previously I had found
some actively growing specimens of the Gemiasma verdans, rubra, and
protuberans. The chloride of calcium solution was poured into a glass
tumbler, then rubbed over the inside and outside of the beaker. It was
then placed on the ground, the rim of the mouth coming on the soil and
the bottom elevated on an old tin pan, so that the beaker stood inclined
at an angle of about forty-five degrees with the horizon. The slides
were moistened, one was laid on a stone, one on a clod, and a third on
the grass. Returned to bed, not having been gone over ten minutes.
At 6 A.M. collected and examined for specimens the drops of dew
deposited. Results: In every one of the five instances collected
the automobile spores, and the sporangia of the gemiasmas and the
protuberans on both sides of slides and beaker. There were also spores
and mycelial filaments of fungi, dirt, and zoospores. The drops of dew
were collected with capillary tubes such as were used in Edinburgh for
vaccine virus. The fluid was then preserved and examined in the naval
laboratory. In a few hours the spores disappeared.
Observation 32. Some of the earth near the site of the exposure referred
to in Observation 31, was examined and found to contain abundantly the
Gemiasma verdans, rubra, Protuberans lamella, confirmed by three more
Observation 33. In company with Surgeon F. M. Dearborne, U.S.N., in
charge of Naval Hospital, the same day later explored the wall about
marsh west of hospital. Found the area abundantly supplied with
palmellae, Gemiasma rubra, verdans, and Protuberans lamella, even where
there was no incrustation or green mould. Made very many examinations,
always finding the plants and spores, giving up only when both of us
were overcome with the heat.
Observation 34. August, 1881. Visited the Wallabout; found it filled up
with earth. August 17. Visited the Flushing district; examined for the
gemiasma the same localities above named, but found only a few dried up
plants and plenty of spores. With sticks dug up the earth in various
places near by. Early in September revisited the same, but found nothing
more; the incrustation, not even so much as before. The weather was
continuously for a long time very dry, so much so that vegetables and
milk were scarce.
The grass and grounds were all dried up and cracked with fissures.
There must be some moisture for the development of the plants. Perhaps
if I had been able to visit the spots in the early morning, it would
have been much better, as about the same time I was studying the same
vegetation on 165th Street and 10th Avenue, New York, and found an
abundance of the plants in the morning, but none scarcely in the
Should any care to repeat these observations, these limits should be
observed and the old adage about "the early bird catching the worm,"
etc. Some may object to this directness of report, and say that we
should report all the forms of life seen. To this I would say that
the position I occupy is much different from yours, which is that of
discoverer. When a detective is sent out to catch a rogue, he tumbles
himself but little with people or things that have no resemblance to the
rogue. Suppose he should return with a report as to the houses, plants,
animals, etc., he encountered in his search; the report might be very
interesting as a matter of general information, but rather out of place
for the parties who desire the rogue caught. So in my search I made a
special work of catching the gemiasmas and not caring for anything else.
Still, to remove from your mind any anxiety that I may possibly not have
understood how to conduct my work, I will introduce here a report
of search to find out how many forms of life and substances I could
recognize in the water of a hydrant fed by Croton water (two specimens
only), during the present winter (1881 and 1882) I beg leave to subjoin
the following list of species, not individuals, I was able to recognize.
In this list you will see the Gemiasma verdans distinguished from its
associate objects. I think I can in no other way more clearly show my
right to have my honest opinion respected in relation to the subject in
[Illustration: MALARIA PLANTS COLLECTED SEPT. 10, 1882, AT WASHINGTON
HEIGHTS, 176TH STREET, NEAR 10TH AVENUE, NEW YORK CITY, ETC.
PLATE VIII.--A, B, C, Large plants of Gemiasma verdans. A, Mature plant.
B, Mature plant discharging spores and spermatia through a small opening
in the cell wall. C, A plant nearly emptied. D, Gemiasma rubra; mature
plant filled with microspores. E, Ripe plant discharging contents. F,
Ripe plant, contents nearly discharged; a few active spermatia left
behind and escaping. G, nearly empty plant. H, Vegetation in the SWEAT
of ague cases during the paroxysm of sweating. I, Vegetation in the
BLOOD of ague. J, Vegetation in the urine of ague during paroxysm. K, L,
M, Vegetation in the urine of chronic cases of severe congestive type.
N, Vegetation in BLOOD of Panama fever; white corpuscles distended with
spores of Gemiasma. O, Gemiasma alba. P, Gemiasma rubra. Q, Gemiasma
verdans. R, Gemiasma alba. O, P, Q, R, Found June 28,1867, in profusion
between Euclid and Superior Streets, near Hudson, Cleveland, O. S,
Sporangia of Protuberans.]
List of objects found in the Croton water, winter of 1881 and 1882. The
specimens obtained by filtering about one barrel of water:
1. Acineta tuberosa.
2. Actinophrys sol.
3. Amoeba proteus.
4. " radiosa.
5. " verrucosa.
6. Anabaina subtularia.
7. Ankistrodesmus falcatus.
8. Anurea longispinis.
9. " monostylus.
10. Anguillula fluviatilis.
11. Arcella mitrata.
12. " vulgaris.
14. Arthrodesmus convergens.
15. Arthrodesmus divergens.
16. Astrionella formosa.
20. Branchippus stagnalis.
28. Clatbrocystis aeruginosa.
29. Closterium lunula.
30. " didymotocum.
31. " moniliferum.
32. Coelastrum sphericum.
33. Cosmarium binoculatum.
34. Cyclops quad.
35. Cyphroderia amp.
36. Cypris tristriata.
37. Daphnia pulex.
38. Diaptomas castor.
39. " sull.
40. Diatoma vulgaris.
41. Difflugia cratera.
42. " globosa.
43. Dinobryina sertularia.
44. Dinocharis pocillum.
46. Eggs of polyp.
47. " entomostraca.
48. " plumatella.
49. " bryozoa.
50. Enchylis pupa.
51. Eosphora aurita.
52. Epithelia, animal.
53. " vegetable.
55. Euglenia viridis.
57. Eurycercus lamellatus.
58. Exuvia of some insect.
59. Feather barbs.
61. Feathers of butterfly.
62. Fungu, red water.
64. Gemiasma verdans.
69. Hyalosphenia tinctad.
70. Hydra viridis.
78. Nostoc communis.
81. Ovaries of entomostraca.
82. Pandorina morum.
83. Paramecium aurelium.
84. Pediastrum boryanum.
85. " incisum.
86. " perforatum.
87. " pertusum.
88. " quadratum.
91. Peredinium candelabrum.
92. Peredinium cinc.
93. Pleurosigma angulatum.
96. Playtiptera polyarthra.
98. Pollen of pine.
99. Polyhedra tetraetzica.
100. " triangularis.
103. Radiophrys alba.
104. Raphidium duplex.
105. Rotifer ascus.
106. " vulgaris.
109. Scenedesmus acutus.
110. " obliquus.
111. " obtusum.
112. " quadricauda.
113. Sheath of tubelaria.
114. Sphaerotheca spores.
116. Spicules of sponge.
118. Staurastrum furcigerum.
119. " gracile.
120. Staurogenum quadratum.
129. Volvox globator.
130. " sull.
132. Worm fluke.
133. Worm, two tailed.
More forms were found, but could not be determined by me. This list will
give an idea of the variety of forms to be met with in the hunt for ague
plants; still, they are as well marked in their physical characters as a
potato is among the objects of nature. Although I know you are perfectly
familiar with algae, still, to make my report more complete, in case you
should see fit to have it pass out of your hands to others, allow me
to give a short account of the Order Three of Algae, namely, the
Chlorosporeae or Confervoid Algae, derived from the Micrographic
Dictionary, this being an accessible authority.
Algae form a class of the thallophytes or cellular plants in which the
physiological functions of the plant are delegated most completely to
the individual cell. That is to say, the marked difference of purpose
seen in the leaves, stamens, seeds, etc., of the phanerogams or
flowering plants is absent here, and the structures carrying on the
operations of nutrition and those of reproduction are so commingled,
conjoined, and in some cases identified, that a knowledge of the
microscopic anatomy is indispensable even to the roughest conception of
the natural history of these plants; besides, we find these plants
so simple that we can see through and through them while living in a
natural condition, and by means of the microscope penetrate to mysteries
of organism, either altogether inaccessible, or only to be attained by
disturbing and destructive dissection, in the so called higher forms of
vegetation. We say "so-called" advisedly, for in the Algae are included
the largest forms of plant life.
The Macrocystis pyrifera, an Algae, is the largest of all known plants.
It is a sea weed that floats free and unattached in the ocean. Covers
the area of two square miles, and is 300 feet in depth (Reinsch). At the
same time its structure on examination shows it to belong to the same
class of plants as the minute palmellae which we have been studying.
Algae are found everywhere in streams, ditches, ponds, even the smallest
accumulations of water standing for any time in the open air, and
commonly on walls or the ground, in all permanently damp situations.
They are peculiarly interesting in regard to morphological conditions
alone, as their great variety of conditions of organization are all
variations, as it were, on the theme of the simple vegetable cell
produced by change of form, number, and arrangement.
The Algae comprehend a vast variety of plants, exhibiting a wonderful
multiplicity of forms, colors, sizes, and degrees of complexity of
structure, but algologists consider them to belong to three orders: 1.
Red spored Algae, called Rhodosporeae or florideae. 2. The dark or black
spored Algae, or Melanosporeae or Fucoideae. 3. The green spored Algae,
or Chlorosporeae or Confervoideae. The first two classes embrace the
sea-weeds. The third class, marine and aquatic plants, most of which
when viewed singly are microscopic. Of course some naturalists do not
agree to these views. It is with order three, Confervoideae, that we are
interested. These are plants growing in sea or fresh water, or on damp
surfaces, with a filamentous, or more rarely a leaf-like pulverulent
or gelatinous thallus; the last two forms essentially microscopic.
Consisting frequently of definitely arranged groups of distinct
cells, either of ordinary structure or with their membrane
silicified--Diatomaceae. We note three forms of fructification: 1.
Resting spores produced after fertilization either by conjugation or
impregnation. 2. Spermatozoids. 3. Zeospores; 2, 4, or multiciliated
active automobile cells--gonidia--discharged from the mother cells or
plants without impregnation, and germinating directly. There is also
another increase by cell division.
SYNOPSIS OF THE FAMILIES.
1. _Lemaneae_.--Frond filamentous, inarticulate, cartilaginous, leathery,
hollow, furnished at irregular distances with whorls or warts, or
necklace shaped. Fructification: tufted, simple or branched, necklace
shaped filaments attached to the inner surface of the tubular frond, and
finally breaking up into elliptical spores. Aquatic.
2. _Batrachospermeae_--Plants filamentous, articulated, invested with
gelatine. Frond composed of aggregated, articulated, longitudinal cells,
whorled at intervals with short, horizontal, cylindrical or beaded,
jointed ramuli. Fructification: ovate spores and tufts of antheridial
cells attached to the lateral ramuli, which consist of minute,
radiating, dichotomous beaded filaments. Aquatic.
3. _Chaetophoraceae_.--Plants growing in the sea or fresh water, coated
by gelatinous substance; either filiform or a number of filaments being
connected together constituting gelatinous, definitely formed, or
shapeless fronds or masses. Filaments jointed, bearing bristle-like
processes. Fructification: zoospores produced from the cell contents of
the filaments; resting spores formed from the contents of particular
cells after impregnation by ciliated spermatozoids produced in distinct
antheridial cells. Coleochaetae.
4. _Confervaceae_.--Plants growing in the sea or in fresh water,
filamentous, jointed, without evident gelatine (forming merely a
delicate coat around the separate filaments) Filaments very variable in
appearance, simple or branched; the cells constituting the articulations
of the filaments more or less filled with green, or very rarely brown or
purple granular matter; sometimes arranged in peculiar patterns on the
walls, and convertible into spores or zoospores. Not conjugating.
5. _Zygnemaceae_.--Aquatic filamentous plants, without evident gelatine,
composed of series of cylindrical cells, straight or curved. Cell
contents often arranged in elegant patterns on the walls. Reproduction
resulting from conjugation, followed by the development of a true spore,
in some genera dividing into four sporules before germinating.
6. _OEdogoniaceae_.--Simple or branched aquatic filamentous plants
attached without gelatine. Cell contents uniform, dense, cell division
accompanied by circumscissile debiscence of the parent cell, producing
rings on the filaments. Reproduction by zoospores formed of the whole
contents of a cell, with a crown of numerous cilia; resting spores
formed in sporangial cells after fecundation by ciliated spermatozoids
formed in antheridial cells.
7. _Siphonaceae_--Plants found in the sea, fresh water, or on damp
ground; of a membranous or horny byaline substance, filled with green
or colorless granular matter. Fronds consisting of continuous tubular
filaments, either free or collected into spongy masses of various
shapes. Crustaceous, globular, cylindrical, or flat. Fructification: by
zoospores, either single or very numerous, and by resting spores formed
in sporangial cells after the contents have been impregnated by the
contents of autheridial cells of different forms.
8 _Oscillatoriaceae_.--Plants growing either in the sea, fresh water, or
on damp ground, of a gelatinous substance and filamentous structure.
Filaments very slender, tubular, continuous, filled with colored,
granular, transversely striated substance; seldom blanched, though often
cohering together so as to appear branched; usually massed together
in broad floating or sessile strata, of a very gelatinous nature;
occasionally erect and tufted, and still more rarely collected into
radiating series bound together by firm gelatine and then forming
globose lobed or flat crustaceous fronds. Fructification: the internal
mass or contents separating into roundish or lenticular gonidia.
9. _Nostochacae_.--Gelatinous plants growing in fresh water, or in damp
situations among mosses, etc.; of soft or almost leathery substance,
consisting of variously curled or twisted necklace-shaped filaments,
colorless or green, composed of simple, or in some stages double rows
of cells, contained in a gelatinous matrix of definite form, or heaped
together without order in a gelatinous mass. Some of the cells enlarged,
and then forming either vesicular empty cells or densely filled
sporangial cells. Reproduction: by the breaking up of the filaments, and
by resting spores formed singly in the sporanges.
10. _Ulvaceae_.--Marine or aquatic algae consisting of membranous, flat,
and expanded tubular or saccate fronds composed of polygonal cells
firmly joined together by their sides.
Reproduced by zoospores formed from the cell contents and breaking
out from the surface, or by motionless spores formed from the whole
11. _Palmellaceae_.--Plants forming gelatinous or pulverulent crusts on
damp surfaces of stone, wood, earth, mud, swampy districts, or more
or less regular masses of gelatinous substance or delicate
pseudo-membranous expansion or fronds, of flat, globular, or tubular
form, in fresh water or on damp ground; composed of one or many,
sometimes innumerable, cells, with green, red, or yellowish contents,
spherical or elliptical form, the simplest being isolated cells found in
groups of two, four, eight, etc., in course of multiplication. Others
permanently formed of some multiple of four; the highest forms made up
of compact, numerous, more or less closely joined cells. Reproduction:
by cell division, by the conversion of the cell contents into zoospores,
and by resting spores, formed sometimes after conjugation; in other
cases, probably, by fecundation by spermatozoids. All the unicellular
algae are included under this head.
12. _Desmidiaceae_.--Microscopic gelatinous plants, of a screen color,
growing in fresh water, composed of cells devoid of a silicious coat,
of peculiar forms such as oval, crescentic, shortly cylindrical,
cylindrical, oblong, etc., with variously formed rays or lobes, giving
a more or less stellate form, presenting a bilateral symmetry, the
junction of the halves being marked by a division of the green contents;
the individual cells being free, or arranged in linear series, collected
into fagot-like bundles or in elegant star like groups which are
embedded in a common gelatinous coat. Reproduced by division and by
resting spores produced in sporangia formed after the conjugation of
two cells and union of their contents, and by zoospores formed in the
vegetative cells or in the germinating resting spores.
13. _Diatomaceae_.--Microscopic cellular bodies, growing in fresh,
brackish, and sea water: free or attached, single, or embedded in
gelatinous tubes, the individual cells (frustules) with yellowish or
brown contents, and provided with a silicious coat composed of two
usually symmetrical valves variously marked, with a connecting band or
hoop at the suture. Multiplied by division and by the formation of new
larger individuals out of the contents of individual conjugated cells;
perhaps also by spores and zoospores.
14. _Volvocineae_.--Microscopic cellular fresh water plants, composed of
groups of bodies resembling zoospores connected into a definite form
by their enveloping membranes. The families are formed either of
assemblages of coated zoospores united in a definite form by the
cohesion of their membranes, or assemblages of naked zoospores inclosed
in a common investing membrane. The individual zoospore-like bodies,
with two cilia throughout life, perforating the membranous coats, and by
their conjoined action causing a free co-operative movement of the whole
group. Reproduction by division, or by single cells being converted into
new families; and by resting spores formed from some of the cells after
impregnation by spermatozoids formed from the contents of other cells of
the same family.
[Illustration: MALARIA PLANTS COLLECTED AT 165TH STREET, EAST OF 10TH
AVENUE, OCT., 1881.
Plate IX.--Large group of malaria plants, Gemiasma verdans, collected at
165th Street, east of 10th Avenue, New York, in October, 1881, by Dr.
Ephraim Cutter, and projected by him with a solar microscope. Dr.
Cuzner--the artist--outlined the group on the screen and made the
finished drawing from the sketch. He well preserved the grouping and
relative sizes. The pond hole whence they came was drained in the spring
of 1882, and in August was covered with coarse grass and weeds. No
plants were found there in satisfactory quantity, but those figured
on Plate VIII. were found half a mile beyond. This shows how draining
removes the malaria plants.]
From the description I think you have placed your plants in the right
family. And evidently they come in the genera named, but at present
there is in the authorities at my command so much confusion as to the
genera, as given by the most eminent authorities, like Nageli, Kutzing,
Braun Rabenht, Cohn, etc., that I think it would be quite unwise for
me to settle here, or try to settle here, questions that baffle the
naturalists who are entirely devoted to this specialty. We can safely
leave this to them. Meantime let us look at the matter as physicians
who desire the practical advantages of the discovery you have made.
To illustrate this position let us take a familiar case. A boy going
through the fields picks and eats an inedible mushroom. He is poisoned
and dies. Now, what is the important part of history here from a
physician's point of view? Is it not that the mushroom poisoned the
child? Next comes the nomenclature. What kind of agaricus was it? Or was
it one of the gasteromycetes, the coniomycetes, the hyphomycetes, the
ascomycetes, or one of the physomycetes? Suppose that the fungologists
are at swords' points with each other about the name of the particular
fungus that killed the boy? Would the physicians feel justified to sit
down and wait till the whole crowd of naturalists were satisfied, and
the true name had been settled satisfactorily to all? I trow not; they
would warn the family about eating any more; and if the case had not yet
perished, they would let the nomenclature go and try all the means that
history, research, and instructed common sense would suggest for the
This leads me here to say that physicians trust too much to the simple
dicta of men who may be very eminent in some department of natural
history, and yet ignorant in the very department about which, being
called upon, they have given an opinion. All everywhere have so much
to learn that we should be very careful how we reject new truths,
especially when they come from one of our number educated in our own
medical schools, studied under our own masters. If the subject is
one about which we know nothing, we had better say so when asked our
opinion, and we should receive with respect what is respectfully offered
by a man whom we know to be honest, a hard worker, eminent in his
department by long and tedious labors. If he asks us to look over his
evidence, do so in a kindly spirit, and not open the denunciations of
bar room vocabularies upon the presenter, simply because we don't see
his point. In other words, we should all be receptive, but careful in
our assimilation, remembering that some of the great operations in
surgery, for example, came from laymen in low life, as the operation for
stone, and even the operation of spaying came from a swineherd.
It is my desire, however, to have this settled as far as can be among
scientists, but for the practical uses of practicing physicians I say
that far more evidence has been adduced by you in support of the cause
of intermittent fever than we have in the etiology of many other
diseases. I take the position that so long as no one presents a better
history of the etiology of intermittent fever by facts and observations,
your theory must stand. This, too, notwithstanding what may be said to
Certainly you are to be commended for having done as you have in this
matter. It is one of the great rights of the profession, and duties
also, that if a physician has or thinks he has anything that is new and
valuable, to communicate it, and so long as he observes the rules of
good society the profession are to give him a respectful hearing,
even though he may have made a mistake. I do not think you had a fair
hearing, and hence so far as I myself am concerned I indorse your
position, and shall do so till some one comes along and gives a better
demonstration. Allow me also to proceed with more evidence.
Observation at West Falmouth, Mass., Sept 1, 1877. I made five
observations in like manner about the marshes and bogs of this town,
which is, as it were, situated on the tendo achillis of Cape Cod, Mass.
In only one of these observations did I find any palmellae like the ague
plants, and they were not characteristic.
Chelsea, Mass., near the Naval Hospital, September 5, 1877. Three sets
of observations. In all spores were found and some sporangia, but
they were not the genuine plants as far as I could judge. They were
Protococcaceae. It is not necessary to add that there are no cases of
intermittent fever regarded as originating on the localities named.
Still, the ancient history of New England contains some accounts of ague
occurring there, but they are not regarded as entirely authentic.
Observation. Lexington, Mass, September 6, 1877. Observation made in
a meadow. There was no saline incrustation, and no palmellae found. No
Observation. Cambridge, Mass. Water works on the shore of Fresh Pond.
Found a few palmellae analogous to, but not the ague palmellae.
Observation. Woburn, Mass, September 27, 1877, with Dr. J. M. Moore.
Found some palmellae, but scanty. Abundance of spores of cryptogams.
Observation. Stonington, Conn., August 15, 1877. Examined a pond hole
nearly opposite the railroad station on the New York Shore Line. Found
abundantly the white incrustation on the surface of the soil. Here I
found the spores and the sporangias of the gemiasmas verdans and rubra.
Observation 2. Repetition of the last.
Observation 3. I examined some of an incrustation that was copiously
deposited in the same locality, which was not white or frosty, but dark
brown and a dirty green. Here the spores were very abundant, and a few
sporangias of the Gemiasma rubra. Ague has of late years been noted in
Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Observations in Connecticut. Middlefield near Middletown, summer of
1878. Being in this locality, I heard that intermittent fever was
advancing eastward at the rate of ten miles a year. It had been observed
in Middlefield. I was much interested to see if I could find the
gemiasmas there. On examining the dripping of some bog moss, I found a
plenty of them.
Observations in Connecticut. New Haven. Early in the summer of 1881 I
visited this city. One object of my visit was to ascertain the truth
of the presence of intermittent fever there, which I had understood
prevailed to such an extent that my patient, a consumptive, was afraid
to return to his home in New Haven. At this time I examined the hydrant
water of the city water works, and also the east shore of the West
River, which seemed to be too full of sewage. I found a plenty of the
Oscillatoreaceae, but no Palmellae.
In September I revisited the city, taking with me a medical gentleman
who, residing in the South, had had a larger experience with the disease
than I. From the macroscopical examination he pronounced a case we
examined to be ague, but I was not able to detect the plants either in
the urine or blood. This might have been that I did not examine long
enough. But a little later I revisited the city and explored the soil
about the Whitney Water Works, whence the city gets its supply of
water, and I had no difficulty in finding a good many of the plants
you describe as found by you in ague cases. At a still later period my
patient, whom I had set to use the microscope and instructed how to
collect the ague plants, set to work himself. One day his mother brought
in a film from off an ash pile that lay in the shade, and this her son
found was made up of an abundance of the ague plants. By simply winding
a wet bandage around the slide, Mr. A. was enabled to keep the plants
in good condition until the time of my next visit, when I examined and
pronounced them to be genuine plants.
I should here remark that I had in examining the sputa of this patient
sent to me, found some of the ague plants. He said that he had been
riding near the Whitney Pond, and perceived a different odor, and
thought he must have inhaled the miasm. I told him he was correct in his
supposition, as no one could mistake the plants; indeed, Prof. Nunn, of
Savannah, Ga., my pupil recognized it at once.
This relation, though short, is to me of great importance. So long as I
could not detect the gemiasmas in New Haven, I was very skeptical as to
the presence of malaria in New Haven, as I thought there must be some
mistake, it being a very good cloak to hide under (malaria). There is no
doubt but that the name has covered lesions not belonging to it. But now
the positive demonstrations above so briefly related show to my mind
that the local profession have not been mistaken, and have sustained
their high reputation.
I should say that I have examined a great deal of sputa, but, with the
exception of cases that were malarious, I have not encountered the
mature plants before. Of course I have found them as you did, in my own
excretions as I was traveling over ague bogs.
[_To be continued_.]
* * * * *
DR. P.G. UNNA, of Hamburg, has lately been experimenting on the dermato
therapeutic uses of a substance called ichthyol, obtained by Herr
Rudolph Schroter by the distillation of bituminous substances and
treatment with condensed sulphuric acid. This body, though tar-like in
appearance, and with a peculiar and disagreeable smell of its own, does
not resemble any known wood or coal tar in its chemical and physical
properties. It has a consistence like vaseline, and its emulsion with
water is easily washed off the skin. It is partly soluble in alcohol,
partly in ether with a changing and lessening of the smell, and totally
dissolves in a mixture of both. It may be mixed with vaseline, lard,
or oil in any proportions. Its chemical constitution is not well
established, but it contains sulphur, oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and also
phosphorus in vanishing proportions, and it may be considered comparable
with a 10 per cent, sulphur salve. Over ordinary sulphur preparations
it has this advantage, that the sulphur is in very intimate and stable
union, so that ichthyol can be united with lead and mercury preparations
without decomposition. Ichthyol when rubbed undiluted on the normal skin
does not set up dermatitis, yet it is a resolvent, and in a high degree
a soother of pain and itching. In psoriasis it is a fairly good remedy,
but inferior to crysarobin in P. inveterata. It is useful also locally
in rheumatic affections as a resolvent and anodyne, in acne, and as a
parasiticide. The most remarkable effects, however, were met with in
eczema, which was cured in a surprisingly short time. From an experience
in the treatment of thirty cases of different kinds--viz., obstinate
circumscribed moist patches on the hands and arms, intensely itching
papular eczema of the flexures and face, infantile moist eczemas,
etc.--he recommends the following procedure. As with sulphur
preparations, he begins with a moderately strong preparation, and as
he proceeds reduces the strength of the application. For moist eczema
weaker preparations (20 to 30 per cent. decreased to 10 per cent.) must
be used than for the papular condition (50 per cent. reduced to 20 per
cent.), and the hand, for example, will require a stronger application
than the face, and children a weaker one than adults; but ichthyol may
be used in any strength from a 5 per cent. to a 40 to 50 per cent.
application or undiluted. For obstinate eczema of the hands the
following formula is given as very efficacious: R. Lithargyri 10.0;
coq.c. aceti, 30.0; ad reman. 20.0; adde olei olivar., adipis, aa 10.0;
ichthyol 10.0, M. ft. ung. Until its internal effects are better known,
caution is advised as to its very widespread application, although
Herr Schroter has taken a gramme with only some apparent increase of
peristalsis and appetite.--_Lancet_.
* * * * *
The illustration represents an autopsy table placed in the Coroner's
Department of the New York Hospital, designed by George B. Post and
Frederick C. Merry.
An amphitheater, fitted up for the convenience of the jury and those
interested when inquests are held, surrounds the table, which is placed
in the center of the floor, thus enabling the subject to be viewed by
the coroner's jury and other officials who may be present.
The mechanical construction of this table will be readily understood by
the following explanation:
The top, indicated by letter, A, is made of thick, heavy, cast glass,
concaved in the direction of the strainer, as shown. It is about eight
feet long and two feet and six inches wide, in one piece, an opening
being left in the center to receive the strainer, so as to allow the
fluid matter of the body, as well as the water with which it is washed,
to find its way to the waste pipe below the table, and thus avoid
soiling or staining the floor,
The strainer is quite large, with a downward draught which passes
through a large flue, as shown by letter, F, connected above the water
seal of the waste trap and trunk of the table to the chimney of the
boiler house, as indicated by the arrows, carrying down all offensive
odors from the body, thereby preventing the permeating of the air in the
[Illustration: IMPROVED AUTOPSY TABLE.]
The base of the table, indicated by letter, B, represents a ground
swinging attachment, which enables the turning of the table in any
D represents the cold water supply cock and handle, intersecting with
letter, E, which is the hot water cock, below the base, as shown, and
then upward to a swing or ball joint, C, then crossing under the plate
glass top to the right with a hose attachment for the use of the
operator. Here a small hose pipe is secured, for use as may be required
in washing off all matter, to insure the clean exposure of the parts to
be dissected. The ball swing, C, enables the turning of the table in any
direction without disturbing the water connections. This apparatus has
been in operation since the building of the hospital in 1876, and has
met all the requirements in connection with its uses.--_Hydraulic
* * * * *
THE EXCITING PROPERTIES OF OATS.
Experiments have been recently made by Mr. Sanson with a view to
settling the question whether oats have or have not the excitant
property that has been attributed to them. The nervous and muscular
excitability of horses was carefully observed with the aid of graduated
electrical apparatus before and after they had eaten a given quantity
of oats, or received a little of a certain principle which Mr. Sanson
succeeded in isolating from oats. The chief results of the inquiry are
as follows: The pericarp of the fruit of oats contains a substance
soluble in alcohol and capable of exciting the motor cells of the
nervous system. This substance is not (as some have thought) vanilline
or the odorous principle of vanilla, nor at all like it. It is a
nitrogenized matter which seems to belong to the group of alkaloids; is
uncrystallizable, finely granular, and brown in mass. The author calls
it "avenine." All varieties of cultivated oats seem to elaborate it, but
they do so in very different degrees. The elaborated substance is the
same in all varieties. The differences in quantity depend not only on
the variety of the plant but also on the place of cultivation. Oats of
the white variety have much less than those of the dark, but for some
of the former, in Sweden, the difference is small; while for others, in
Russia, it is considerable. Less than 0.9 of the excitant principle per
cent. of air-dried oats, the dose is insufficient to certainly affect
the excitability of horses, but above this proportion the excitant
action is certain. While some light-colored oats certainly have
considerable excitant power, some dark oats have little. Determination
of the amount of the principle present is the only sure basis of
appreciation, though (as already stated) white oats are likely to
be less exciting than dark. Crushing or grinding the grain weakens
considerably the excitant property, probably by altering the substance
to which it is due; the excitant action is more prompt, but much less
strong and durable. The action, which is immediate and more intense
with the isolated principle, does not appear for some minutes after the
eating of oats; in both cases it increases to a certain point, then
diminishes and disappears. The total duration of the effect is stated to
be an hour per kilogramme of oats ingested.
* * * * *
The rapid strides which our knowledge has made during the past few years
in the subject of the filaria parasite have been mainly owing to the
diligent researches of Dr. Patrick Manson, who continues to work at the
question. In the last number of the _Medical Reports for China_, Dr.
Manson deals with the phenomenon known as "filarial periodicity," and
with the fate of embryo parasites not removed from the blood. The
intimate pathology of the disease, and the subject of abscess caused
by the death of the parent filaria, also receive further attention.
An endeavor to explain the phenomenon of "filarial periodicity" by an
appeal to the logical "method of concomitant variations" takes Manson
into an interesting excursion which is not productive of any positive
results; nor is any more certain conclusion come to with regard to the
fate of the embryos which disappear from the blood during the day time.
Manson does not incline to the view that there is a diurnal intermittent
reproduction of embryos with a corresponding destruction. An original
and important speculation is made with respect to the intimate pathology
of elephantiasis, chyluria, and lymph scrotum, which is thoroughly
worthy of consideration. Our readers are probably aware that the parent
filaria and the filaria sanguinis hominis may exist in the human body
without entailing any apparent disturbance. The diameter of an
embryo filaria is about the same as that of a red blood disk, one
three-thousandth of an inch. The dimensions of an ovum are one
seven-hundred-and-fiftieth by one five-hundredth of an inch. If we
imagine the parent filaria located in a distal lymphatic vessel to abort
and give birth to ova instead of embryos, it may be understood that the
ova might be unable to pass such narrow passages as the embryo could,
and this is really the hypothesis which Manson has put forward on the
strength of observations made on two cases. The true pathology of the
elephantoid diseases may thus be briefly summarized: A parent filaria in
a distant lymphatic prematurely expels her ova; these act as emboli
to the nearest lymphatic glands, whence ensues stasis of lymph,
regurgitation of lymph, and partial compensation by anastomoses of
lymphatic vessels; this brings about hypertrophy of tissues, and may go
on to lymphorrhoea or chyluria, according to the site of the obstructed
lymphatics. It may be objected that too much is assumed in supposing
that the parent worm is liable to miscarry. But as Manson had sufficient
evidence in two cases that such abortions had happened, he thinks it is
not too much to expect their more frequent occurrence. The explanation
given of the manner in which elephantoid disease is produced applies to
most, if not all, diseases, with one exception, which result from the
presence of the parasite in the human body. The death of the parent
parasite in the afferent lymphatic may give rise to an abscess, and the
frequency with which abscess of the scrotum or thigh is met with in
Chinese practice is, in Manson's opinion, attributable to this. Dr.
Manson's report closes with an account of a case of abscess of the
thigh, with varicose inguinal glands, in which fragments of a mature
worm were discovered in the contents of the abscess.--_Lancet_.
* * * * *
THE SPECTRAL MASDEVALLIA.
Of all orchids no genus we can just now call to mind is more distinct or
is composed of species more widely divergent in size, form, structure,
and color than is this one of Masdevallia. It was founded well nigh a
century ago by Ruiz and Pavon on a species from Mexico, M. uniflora.
which, so far as I know, is nearly if not quite unknown to present day
cultivators. When Lindley wrote his "Genera and Species" in 1836, three
species of Masdevallias only were known to botanists but twenty-five
years later, when he prepared his "Folio Orchidaceae," nearly forty
species were; known in herbaria, and to-day perhaps fully a hundred
kinds are grown in our gardens, while travelers tell us of all the
gorgeous beauties which are known to exist high up on the cloud-swept
sides of the Andes and Cordilleras of the New World. The Masdevallia
is confined to the Western hemisphere alone, and as in bird and animal
distribution, so in the case of many orchids we find that when any genus
is confined to one hemisphere, those who look for another representative
genus in the other are rarely disappointed. Thus hornbills in the East
are represented by toucans in the West, and the humming bird of the West
by the sunbird of the East, and so also in the Malayan archipelago.
Notably in Borneo we find bolbophyls without pseudo bulbs, and with
solitary or few flowered scapes and other traits singularly suggestive
at first sight of the Western Masdevallia. Thus some bolbophyl, for
example, have caudal appendages to their sepals, as in Masdevallias,
and on the other hand some Masdevallias have their labellums hinged
and oscillatory, which is so commonly the case as to be "almost
characteristic" in the genus Bolbophyllum or Sarcopodium. Speaking
generally, Masdevallias, coming as most of them do from high altitudes,
lend themselves to what is now well known as "cool treatment," and
cultivators find it equally necessary to offer them moisture in
abundance both at the root and in the atmosphere, also seeing that when
at home in cloud-land they are often and well nigh continually drenched
by heavy dews and copious showers.
Of all the cultivated Masdevallias, none are so weirdly strange and
fascinating as is the species M. chimaera, which is so well illustrated
in the accompany engraving. This singular plant was discovered by
Benedict Roezl, and about 1872 or 1873 I remember M. Lucien Linden
calling upon me one day, and among other rarities showing me a dried
flower of this species. I remember I took up a pen and rapidly made a
sketch of the flower, which soon after appeared (1873, p. 3) in _The
Florist_, and was perhaps the first published figure of the plant. It
was named by Professor Reichenbach, who could find for it no better
name than that of the mythical monster Chimaera, than which, as an old
historian tells us, no stranger bogy ever came out of the earth's
inside. Our engraving shows the plant about natural size, and indicates
the form and local coloring pretty accurately. The ground color is
yellowish, blotched with lurid brownish crimson, the long pendent tails
being blood color, and the interior of the sepals are almost shaggy.
The spectral appearance of the flower is considerably heightened by the
smooth, white, slipper-like lip, which contrasts so forcibly in color
and texture with the lurid shagginess around it. Sir J. D. Hooker, in
describing this species in the _Botanical Magazine_, t. 6, 152, says
that the aspect of the curved scape as it bears aloft its buds and hairy
flowers is very suggestive of the head and body of a viper about to
strike. Dr. Haughton, F.R.S., told me long ago that Darlingtonia
californica always reminds him of a cobra when raised and puffed out in
a rage, and certainly the likeness is a close one.
Grown in shallow teak wood baskets, suspended near the roof in a
partially shaded structure, all the chimaeroid section of Masdevallia
succeed even better than when grown in pots or pans, as they have a
Stanhopea-like habit of pushing out their flowers at all sorts of
deflected angles. A close glance at the engraving will show that for
convenience sake the artist has propped up the flower with a stick, this
much arrangement being a necessity, so as to enable the tails to lie
diagonally across the picture. From tip to tip the flower represented is
9 inches, or not so much by 7 inches as the flower measured in Messrs.
Backhouse's nursery at York.--_The Garden_.
[Illustration: THE SPECTRAL MASDEVALLIA.--MASDEVALLIA CHIMAERA (Natural
* * * * *
SURVEY OF THE BLACK CANON.
It is rumored again that a survey is soon to be made through the
heaviest portion of the Black Canon of the Gunnison. For a long distance
the walls of syenite rise to the stupendous height of 3,000 feet, and
for 1,800 feet the walls of the canon are arched not many feet from the
bed of the river. If the survey is successful, and the Denver and Rio
Grande is built through the canon, it will undoubtedly be the grandest
piece of engineering on the American continent. The river is very swift,
and it is proposed to build a boat at the western end, and provision
it for a length of time, allowing it to float with the stream, but
controlled by ropes. If the boat goes, the chances are that the baby
road goes, too.--_Gunnison (Colo.) Review_.
* * * * *
THE ANCIENT MISSISSIPPI AND ITS TRIBUTARIES.
[Footnote: This lecture was delivered in the Chapel of the State
University, at Columbia, as an inaugural address on January 10, 1883,
and illustrated by projections. The author has purposely avoided the
very lengthy details of scientific observation by which the conclusions
have been arrived at relating to the former wonderful condition of
the Mississippi, and the subsequent changes to its present form: as a
consideration of them would not only cause him to go beyond the allotted
time, but might, perhaps, prove tiresome.]
By J. W. SPENCER, B.A.Sc., Ph.D., F.G.S., Professor of Geology in the
State University of Missouri.
Physical geology is the science which deals with the past changes of
the earth's crust, and the causes which have produced the present
geographical features, everywhere seen about us. The subject of the
present address must therefore be considered as one of geology rather
than of geography, and I propose to trace for you the early history of
the great Mississippi River, of which we have only a diminished remnant
of the mightiest river that ever flowed over any terrestrial continent.
By way of introduction, I wish you each to look at the map of our great
river, with its tributaries as we now see it, draining half of the
central portion of the continent, but which formerly drained, in
addition, at least two of our great lakes, and many of the great rivers
at the present time emptying into the colder Arctic Sea.
Let us go back, in time, to the genesis of our continent. There was once
a time in the history of the earth when all the rocks were in a molten
condition, and the waters of our great oceans in a state of vapor,
surrounding the fiery ball. Space is intensely cold. In course of time
the earth cooled off, and on the cold, solid crust geological agencies
began to work. It is now conceded by the most accomplished physicists
that the location of the great continents and seas was determined by
the original contraction and cooling of the earth's crust; though very
greatly modified by a long succession of changes, produced by the
agencies of "water, air, heat, and cold," through probably a hundred
million of years, until the original rock surface of the earth has been
worked over to a depth of thirty or forty miles.
Like human history, the events of these long _aeons_ are divided into
periods. The geologist divides the past history of the earth and its
inhabitants into five Great Times; and these, again, into ages, periods,
epochs, and eras.
At the close of the first Great Time--called Archaean--the continent
south of the region of the great lakes, excepting a few islands, was
still submerged beneath a shallow sea, and therefore no portion of the
Mississippi was yet in existence. At the close of the second great
geological Time--the Palaeozoic--the American continent had emerged
sufficiently from the ocean bed to permit the flow of the Ohio, and of
the Mississippi, above the mouth of the former river, although they were
not yet united.
Throughout the third great geological Time--the Mesozoic--these rivers
grew in importance, and the lowest portions of the Missouri began to
form a tributary of some size. Still the Ohio had not united with the
Mississippi, and both of these rivers emptied into an arm of the Mexican
Gulf, which then reached to a short distance above what is now their
In point of time, the Ohio is probably older than the Mississippi, but
the latter river grew and eventually absorbed the Ohio as a tributary.
In the early part of the fourth great geological Time--the
Cenozoic--nearly the whole continent was above water. Still the Gulf of
Mexico covered a considerable portion of the extreme Southern States,
and one of its bays extended as far north as the mouth of the Ohio,
which had not yet become a tributary of the Mississippi. The Missouri
throughout its entire length was at this time a flowing river.
I told you that the earth's crust had been worked over to a depth of
many miles since geological time first commenced. Subsequently, I have
referred to the growth of the continent in different geological periods.
All of our continents are being gradually worn down by the action of
rains, rills, rivulets, and rivers, and being deposited along the sea
margins, just as the Mississippi is gradually stretching out into the
Gulf, by the deposition of the muds of the delta. This encroachment on
the Gulf of Mexico may continue, yea, doubtless will, until that deep
body of water shall have been filled up by the remains of the continent,
borne down by the rivers; for the Mississippi alone carries annually 268
cubic miles of mud into the Gulf, according to Humphreys and Abbot. This
represents the valley of the Mississippi losing one foot off its whole
surface in 6,000 years. And were this to continue without any elevation
of the land, the continent would all be buried beneath the sea in a
period of about four and a half million years. But though this wasting
is going on, the continent will not disappear, for the relative
positions of the land and water are constantly changing; in some cases
the land is undergoing elevation, in others, subsidence. Prof. Hilgard
has succeeded in measuring known changes of level, in the lower
Mississippi Valley, and records the continent as having been at least
450 feet higher than at present (and if we take the coast survey
soundings, it seems as if we might substitute 3,000 feet as the
elevation), and subsequently at more than 450 feet lower, and then the
change back to the present elevation.
Let us now study the history of the great river in the last days of the
Cenozoic Time, and early days of the fifth and last great Geological
Time, in which we are now living--the Quaternary, or Age of Man--an
epoch which I have called _the "Great River Age_."
It is to the condition of the Mississippi during this period and its
subsequent changes to its present form that I wish particularly to call
your attention. During the Great River age we know that the eastern
coast of the continent stood at least 1,200 feet higher than at present.
The region of the Lower Mississippi was also many hundred feet higher
above the sea level than now. Although we have not the figures for
knowing the exact elevation of the Upper Mississippi, yet we have the
data for knowing that it was very much higher than at the present day.
_The Lower Mississippi_, from the Gulf to the mouth of the Ohio River,
was of enormous size flowing through a valley with an average width of
about fifty miles, though varying from about twenty-five to seventy
In magnitude, we can have some idea, when we observe the size of the
lower three or four hundred miles of the Amazon River, which has a width
of about fifty miles. But its depth was great, for the waters not only
filled a channel now buried to a depth of from three to five hundred
feet, but stood at an elevation much higher than the broad bottom lands
which now constitute those fertile alluvial flats of the Mississippi
Valley, so liable to be overflowed.
From the western side, our great river received three principal
tributaries--the Red River of the South, the Washita, and the Arkansas,
each flowing in valleys from two to ten miles in width, but now
represented only by the depauperated streams meandering from side to
side, over the flat bottom lands, generally bounded by bluffs.
The Mississippi from the east received no important tributaries south
of the Ohio; such rivers as the Yazoo being purely modern and wandering
about in the ancient filled-up valley as does the modern Mississippi
So far we find that the Mississippi below the mouth of the Ohio differed
from the modern river in its enormous magnitude and direct course.
From the mouth of the Ohio to that of the Minnesota River, at Fort
Snelling, the characteristics of the Mississippi Valley differ entirely
from those of the lower sections. It generally varies from two to ten
miles in width, and is bounded almost everywhere by bluffs, which
vary in height from 150 to 500 feet, cut through by the entrances of
The bottom of the ancient channel is often 100 feet or more below the
present river, which wanders about, from side to side, over the "bottom
lands" of the old valley, now partly filled with debris, brought down by
the waters themselves, and deposited since the time when the pitch of
the river began to be diminished. There are two places where the river
flows over hard rock. These are at the rapids near the mouth of the Des
Moines River, and a little farther up, at Rock Island. These portions of
the river do not represent the ancient courses, for subsequent to the
Great River Age, according to General Warren, the old channels became
closed, and the modern river, being deflected, was unable to reopen its
The Missouri River is now the only important tributary of this section
of the Mississippi from the west. Like the western tributaries, farther
south, it meanders over broad bottom lands, which in some places reach a
width of ten miles or more, bounded by bluffs. During the period of the
culmination, it probably discharged nearly as much water as the Upper
Mississippi. At that time there were several other tributaries of no
mean size, such as the Des Moines, which filled valleys, one or two
miles wide, but now represented only by shrunken streams.
The most interesting portion of our study refers to the ancient eastern
tributaries, and the head waters of the great river.
The greater portion of the Ohio River flows over bottom lands, less
extensive than those of the west, although bounded by high bluffs.
The bed of the ancient valley is now buried to a depth of sometimes a
hundred feet or more. However, at Louisville, Ky., the river flows over
hard rock, the ancient valley having been filled with river deposits on
which that city is built, as shown first by Dr. Newberry, similar to the
closing of the old courses of the Mississippi, at Des Moines Rapids and
Rock Island. However, the most wonderful changes in the course of the
Ohio are further up the river. Mr. Carll, of Pennsylvania, in 1880,
discovered that the Upper Alleghany formerly emptied into Lake Erie, and
the following year I pointed out that not only the Upper Alleghany, but
the whole Upper Ohio, formerly emptied into Lake Erie, by the Beaver and
Mahoning Valleys (reversed), and the Grand River (of Ohio). Therefore,
only that portion of the Ohio River from about the Pennsylvania-Ohio
State line sent its waters to the Mexican Gulf, during the Great River
Other important differences in the river geology of our country were
Lake Superior emptying directly into the northern end of Lake Michigan,
and Lake Michigan discharging itself, somewhere east of Chicago, into an
upper tributary of the Illinois River. Even now, by removing rock to a
depth of ten feet, some of the waters of Lake Michigan have been made to
flow into the Illinois, which was formerly a vastly greater river than
at present, for the ancient valley was from two to ten miles wide, and
very deep, though now largely filled with drift.
_The study of the Upper Ancient Mississippi_ is the most important of
this address. The principal discoveries were made only a few years
since, by General G.K. Warren, of the Corps of Engineers, U.S.A. At Ft.
Snelling, a short distance above St. Paul, the modern Minnesota River
empties into the Mississippi, but the ancient condition was the
converse. At Ft. Snelling, the valleys form one continuous nearly
straight course, about a mile wide, bounded by bluffs 150 feet high. The
valley of the Minnesota is large, but the modern river is small. The
uppermost valley of the Mississippi enters this common valley at nearly
right angles, and is only a quarter of a mile wide and is completely
filled by the river. Though this body of water is now the more
important, yet in former days it was relatively a small tributary.
The character of the Minnesota Valley is similar to that of the
Mississippi below Ft. Snelling, in being bounded by high bluffs and
having a width of one or two miles, or more, all the way to the height
of land, between Big Stone Lake and Traverse Lake, the former of which
drains to the south, from an elevation of 992 feet above the sea, and
the latter only half a dozen miles distant (and eight feet higher)
empties, by the Red River of the North, into Lake Winnipeg. During
freshets, the swamps between these two lakes discharge waters both ways.
The valley of the Red River is really the bed of an immense dried-up
lake. The lacustrine character of the valley was recognized by early
explorers, but all honor to the name of General Warren, who, in
observing that the ancient enormous Lake Winnipeg formerly sent its
waters southward to the Mexican Gulf, made the most important discovery
in fluviatile geology--a discovery which will cause his name to be
honored in the scientific world long after his professional successes
have been forgotten.
General Warren considered that the valley of Lake Winnipeg only belonged
to the Mississippi since the "Ice Age," and explained the changes of
drainage of the great north by the theory of the local elevation of the
land. Facts which settle this question have recently been collected in
Minnesota State by Mr. Upham, although differently explained by that
geologist. However, he did not go far enough back in time, for doubtless
the Winnipeg Valley discharged southward before the last days of the
"Ice Age," and the great changes in the river courses were not entirely
produced by local elevation, but also by the filling of the old water
channels with drift deposits and sediments. Throughout the bottom of the
Red River Valley a large number of wells have been sunk to great depths,
and these show the absence of hard rock to levels below that of Lake
Winnipeg; but some portions of the Minnesota River flow over hard rock
at levels somewhat higher. Whether the presence of these somewhat higher
rocks is due entirely to the local elevation, which we know took place,
or to the change in the course of the old river, remains to be seen.
Mr. Upham has also shown that there is a valley connecting the Minnesota
River, at Great Bend at Mankato, with the head waters of the Des Moines
River, as I predicted to General Warren a few months before his death.
At the time when Lake Winnipeg was swollen to its greatest size,
extending southward into Minnesota, as far as Traverse Lake, it had a
length of more than 600 miles and a breadth of 250 miles.
Its greatest tributary was the Saskatchewan--a river nearly as large as
the Missouri. It flowed in a deep broad canon now partly filled with
drift deposits, in some places, to two hundred feet or more in depth.
Another tributary, but of a little less size, was the Assiniboine, now
emptying into the Red River, at the city of Winnipeg. Following up
this river, in a westerly direction, one passes into the Qu'Appelle
Valley--the upper portion of which is now filled with drift, as first
shown by Prof. H. Y. Hind. This portion of the valley is interesting,
for through it, before being filled with drift, the south branch of the
Saskatchewan River formerly flowed, and constituted an enormous river.
But subsequent to the Great River Age, when choked with drift, it sent
its waters to the North Saskatchewan as now seen. There were many other
changes in the course of the ancient rivers to the north, but I cannot
here record them.
As we have seen, the ancient Mississippi and its tributaries were vastly
larger rivers than their modern representatives. At the close of the
Great River Age, the whole continent subsided to many hundred feet below
its present level, or some portions to even thousands of feet. During
this subsidence, the Mississippi States north of the Ozark Mountains
formed the bed of an immense lake, into the quiet waters of which were
deposited soils washed down by the various rivers from the northwestern
and north central States and the northern territories of Canada. These
sediments, brought here from the north, constitute the bluff formation
of the State, and are the source of the extraordinary fertility of our
lands, on which the future greatness of our State depends. However, time
will not permit me to enter into the application of the facts brought
forward to agricultural interests. But although this address is intended
to be in the realm of pure science, I cannot refrain from saying a word
to our engineering students as to the application of knowledge of river
geology to their future work. The subject of river geology is yet in its
infancy, and I have known of much money being squandered for want of
its knowledge. In one case, I saved a company several thousand dollars,
though I should have been willing to give a good subscription to see the
work carried out from the scientific point of view.
I will briefly indicate a few interesting points to the engineer.
Sometimes in making railway cuttings it is possible to find an adjacent
buried valley through which excavations can be made without cutting hard
rock. In bridge building especially, in the western country, a knowledge
of the buried valleys is of the utmost importance. Again, in sinking for
coal do not begin your work from the bed of a valley, unless it be of
hard rock, else you may have to go through an indefinite amount of drift
and gravel; and once more, in boring for artesian wells, it sometimes
happens that good water can be obtained in the loose drift filling these
ancient valleys; but when you wish to sink into harder rock, do not
select your site of operations on an old buried valley, for the cost of
sinking through gravel is greater than through ordinary rock.
In closing, let us consider to what the name Mississippi should be
given. In point of antiquity, the Ohio and Upper Mississippi are of
about the same age, but since the time when ingrowing southward they
united, the latter river has been the larger. The Missouri River,
though longer than the Mississippi, is both smaller and geographically
newer--the upper portion much newer.
Above Ft. Snelling, the modern Mississippi, though the larger body of
water, should be considered as a tributary to that now called Minnesota,
while the Minnesota Valley is really a portion of the older Mississippi
Valley--both together forming the parent river, which when swollen to
the greatest volume had the Saskatchewan River for a tributary,
and formed the grandest and mightiest river of which we have any
Back to Full Books