Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

to whom the paper was referred, Prof. James Hall, in whose possesbion the specimens now are, states that he had hoped long since to put the memoir in such a form as to do justice to the memory of Dr. Troost, and be in accordance with the latest views of the subject. To do this, however, required an examination of other specimens, and for this object he had never been able to find time. At present he is engaged in a geological report of Iowa, in which there are several plates of Crinoids, and any which may be identical with those described by Dr. Troost will be accredited to him. We regret exceedingly this long delay in the publication of the labors of one so highly esteemed in life and gratefully remembered in death. It has, however, been caused by circumstances over which we had no control, and which have given us considerable disquietude.

The new and extended series of Meteorological and Physical Tables, which has been in course of preparation for several years, is at length completed and ready for distribution. It forms a volume of 634 large octavo pages, which may be divided into separate parts, each distinct in itself. A copy of these tables will be sent to each of the meteorological observers, and it is believed that a considerable number may be sold in this country and Europe, from which something may be derived towards compensating the author, Prof. Guyot, for the unwearied labor and attention he has bestowed upon the work.

At the request of the Institution, Baron Osten Sacken, of the Riissian legation, who has made a special study of Dipterous Insects has prepared a catalogue of the previously described species of this continent, analogous to that of Melsheimer's catalogue of the Cleoptera of the United States, which was published some years ago by this Institution.

It frequently happens that the same animal is described by different naturalists under different names, and there may be among the species enumerated in this catalogue some of this character, but in the present state of the knowledge of American Diptera the publication of a complete synonymical catalogue is impossible. Yet a list like the one just completed is an indispensable preparatory work for the future study of this branch of entomology. The catalogue includes the species inhabiting not only the North American continent in general, but also those in Central America and in the West Indies. It also gives the principal localities where each species has been found. In a list like this, says the author, completeness is the principal merit; the symmetrical arrangement is but of secondary importance.

The groups adopted by Meigen and Wiedemann are retained, avoiding the subdivisions introduced by modern authors.

The publication of this list, we trust, will very much facilitate the study of entomology, and it is a special object of this Institution to encourage individuals to devote themselves to particular subjects of research. The field of nature is so extended that unless it be minutely subdivided, and its several parts cultivated by different persons, little progress of a definite character can be anticipated. To collect the materials for wider generalizations, microscopic research is necessary in every direction, and men enthusiastically devoted to one object are required in every branch of knowledge in order that the whole may be perfected. It is true, before entering on an investigation of this kind, that it is desirable for the individual to have a general knowledge of the different branches of science, since they are all intimately connected ; and the student can then narrow his field of view until it comes within the scope of his mental abilities, or the means which he may have at his disposal for its advancement. As a general rule, however, the ability to enlarge the bounds of science can only be obtained by almost exclusive devotion to a few branches.

It is scarcely possible to estimate too highly, in reference to the happiness of the individual as well as to the promotion of knowledge, the choice in early life of some subject to which the thoughts can be habitually turned during moments of leisure, and to which observation may be directed during periods of recreation, relative to which facts may be gleaned from casual reading, and during journeys of business or of pleasure. It is well that every one should have some favorite subject of which he has a more minute knowledge than any of his neighbors. It is well that he should know some one thing profoundly, in order that he may estimate by it his deficiencies in others.

In this connexion it may be proper to remark that the association of individuals in the same community, each with a special and favorite pursuit, each encouraging the others, each deferring to the others, and each an authority in his own specialty, forms an organization alike valuable to the individual, the community, and the public generally. To induce and encourage the establishment of such associations is one of the objects of the Institution. It is suprising what interest may be awakened, what amount of latent talents developed, and what dignity imparted to the pursuits of a neighborhood by a society in which the knowledge of each becomes common property,

and the labors of each one are stimulated by the appreciation and applause of his fellows.

I am acquainted with no plan of adult education better calculated to elevate the mental character of a community or to develop the local natural history of a district than that of a well organized and efficiently conducted association of this kind. Such establishments, I am happy to say, are now becoming common in every part of the United States. They have taken the place, in many cases, of the debating societies, which were forinerly instituted for mental improvement. To the latter it might justly be objected that they tend to promote a talent of sophistical reasoning, rather than to engender an uncompromising love of truth. The habit of fluent speaking may undoubtedly be cultivated at the expense of profound thought, and however promotive at times of the temporary interests of the individual, can never be supposed to tend to the permanent advancement of the species.

Meteorology.—The system of meteorological observations under the direction of the Institution and the Patent Office has been so repeatedly described in previous reports that it will scarcely be necessary to give any more at this time than an account of the present state of the work. The system was commenced in 1849, and has since then been gradually improving in the number of observers, character of the instruments, and the precision with which the records are made. The Institution has awakened a wide interest in the subject of meteorology, and has diffused a considerable amount of information with regard to it which could not readily be obtained through other means. The manufacture of instruments, compared with standards furnished by the Institution from London and Paris, has been an important means of advancing the science. The work is still continued by James Green, 173 Grand street, New York, and during the past year an increasing number of full sets has been purchased by observers. The Institution has continued to distribute rain-gages, with which observations are now made on the quantity of aqueous precipitation in nearly every State and Territory of the Union.

We are indebted to the National Telegraph line for a series of observations from New Orleans to New York, and as far westward as Cincinnati, Ohio, which have been published in the “Evening Star,” of this city. These reports have excited much interest, and could they be extended further north, and more generally to the westward, they would furnish important information as to the ap

proach of storms. We hope in the course of another year to make such an arrangement with the telegraph lines as to be able to give warning on the eastern coast of the approach of storms, since the investigations which have been made at the Institution fully indicate the fact that as a general rule the storms of our latitude pursue a definite course.

The materials which have been collected relative to the climate of the North American continent are as follows:

1st. A miscellaneous collection of MSS. and other tables relative to the climate of the United States. This series will be enriched by a reference list to all the meteorological records, which are to be found in the extensive library of Mr. Peter Force, of this city, and other accessible sources of information.

2d. The observations made under the direction of this Institution since 1849.

3d. A series of observations made by Dr. Berlandier in Mexico. 4th. Observations made in the British possessions.

5th. The record of observations made by government and other exploring expeditions.

6th. Copies of the observations made under the direction of the Surgeon General at the military posts.

7th. Copies of the observations made at the expense of the States of New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Missouri.

8th. A series of observations from Bermuda and the West Indies.

Besides these, the Institution is endeavoring to obtain, by means of its exchanges, a full series of all observations which have been made in foreign countries, and to form a complete meteorological library.

Complaint has been made on account of the delay in publishing deductions from the materials which have thus been collected, but, with the limited means of the Institution, it should be recollected that all objects enumerated in the programme of organization cannot be simultaneously accomplished. The reductions have been steadily pursued for the last five years, and all the funds, not otherwise absolutely required, have been devoted by the Institution to this object.

It will be a matter of astonishment to those not practically acquainted with the subject, to be informed as to the amount of labor required for the reduction of the returns made to this Institution for a single year. During 1856 the records of upwards of half a million of separate observations, each requiring a reduction involving an arithmetical calculation, were received at the Institution. Allowing an average of one minute for the examination and reduction of each

observation, the amount of time consumed will be nearly 7,000 hours, or, at the rate of seven hours per day, it will be 1,000 days or upwards of three years, or, in other words, to keep up with the reduction of the current observations the whole available time of three expert computers is required. This is independent of the labor expended in the correspondence, preparation and distribution of blank forms, and the deduction of general principles. The work has been prosecuted, therefore, as rapidly as the means at the disposal of the Institution would permit. Since the arrangement was made with the Patent Office, from twelve to fifteen persons, many of them females, have been almost constantly employed, under the direction of Prof. Coffin, in bringing up the arrears and in reducing the current observations.

All the materials collected at the Institution are in the process of being arranged and bound in accessible volumes, with proper in lices, to be used by all who may be desirous of making special investigations on any point relative to the climate of this country.

During the past year the reductions for 1855 were printed in pamphlet form and distributed to observers for criticism and suggestions as to improvements which might be adopted in the subsequent publication of the entire series.

Exchanges.—The system of international exchange has been carried on during the past year with unabated zeal, and we trust with undiminished good results. A large amount of scientific material has passed through our hands in its transfer to and from societies and individuals in this and other countries. The returns made to the Institution during 1857 for its own publications consist of 555 volumes, 1,067 parts of volumes, and 138 charts. These works embrace most of the current volumes of scientific transactions, and are of the highest importance as aids in original research. The number would be very much increased if the contents of several large cases, which were accidentally delayed until the beginning of this year, were included.

The importance of the exchanges is not to be estimated by the commercial value alone of the books received. In addition to this we must consider the effect which it produces in bringing into immediate communication the cultivators of literature and science in this country with those abroad, of distributing among our societies publications of a class, the existence of which would scarcely otherwise be known, and of facilitating the diffusion of knowledge which, by the ordinary modes of transmission, would not be attained, except, perhaps, in the course of years.

« AnteriorContinuar »