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The more the gaps between species are filled up by the discovery of intermediate varieties, the stronger becomes the argument for transmutation, and the weaker that for successive creations; because the former view then becomes more and more consistent with experience, and the latter more and more inconsistent with it. The investigations of Mr. Bates on the butterflies of the Amazon region, of Mr. Wallace on those of the Malay Archipelago, of Mr. B. D. Walsh on the effect of food in insects, Sir John Lubbock's diving hymenopterous insect; the discovery of Eozoön at a period inconceivably antecedent to the pre-supposed introduction of life upon the globe; the published opinions of De Candolle and Hooker, in botany; the phases of resemblance to inferior orders which the embryo goes through in its development; the metamorphosis of plants, and the occurrence of rudimentary and useless organs, - all supply strong evidence in favor of the derivative hypothesis. The present more quiet and uniform rate of physical changes would involve a greater degree of fixity in living forms than in the earlier periods of rapid transition. It must also be remembered that only a very small portion of the extinct forms have been preserved as fossils; were the series complete, the question would be solved, and, in the opinion of many good judges, most likely in favor of the derivative hypothesis. The opponents of continuity lay all stress upon the lost links of the paleontological chain, and none upon the few existing and altogether exceptional ones; and the worst of it is, that the chance of filling up the missing links, from the operation of destructive causes, is very small.
The controversy of MM. Pasteur and Pouchet on spontaneous generation had ended in the general belief that the latter was in error, but more recent experiments of Mr. Child again opened the question; the weight of opinion, however, continues to be against the theory of spontaneous generation, or, if heterogeny obtains at all, that it is confined to the most simple structures, such as vibrios and bacteria, the more highly-developed and progressive forms being generated by reproduction.
Meteorites are now acknowledged to be cosmical bodies moving in the interplanetary spaces by gravitation around the sun, and some perhaps around the planets, showing that the universe has not the empty spaces formerly attributed to it, but is studded with smaller planets between the larger and more visible masses. Such as have fallen upon the earth give on analysis metals and
oxides similar to those which belong to our own planet. M. Daubrée, before the French Academy, has given the chemical and mineralogical characters of meteorites, and finds that their similarity to terrestrial rocks increases as we penetrate into the crust of the earth, and that some of our deep-seated minerals, as olivine, serpentine, etc., are almost identical with meteoric constituents. When we consider that the exterior of the earth is oxidated to a considerable extent, there is no cause for wonder that its deoxidated interior should possess a higher specific gravity than the crust.
The asteroids and planets now number ninety-two, and probably the next half century will demonstrate that the now seemingly vacant interplanetary spaces are occupied by many others of these bodies.
Our own satellite has been the subject of rigid scrutiny, yet the question whether the moon possesses any atmosphere cannot be regarded as solved; if there be any, it must be exceedingly small in quantity and highly attenuated. It is believed that there is not oxygen enough in the moon to oxidate the metals of which it is composed, and that the surface which we see is metallic, or nearly so. M. Chacornac's recent observations lead him to the belief that many of the lunar craters were the result of a single explosion, which raised the surface as a bubble, and deposited the débris around the orifice of eruption. The lunar eruptions evidently did not take place at one period only, as in many parts one crater is seen encroaching on and displacing others.
It is to be hoped that the achromatic telescope will ere long be freed from its old and great defect, "the inaccuracy of definition, arising from what was termed the irrationality of the spectrum, or the incommensurate divisions of the spectra, formed by flint and crown glass."
The improvements of Mr. Alvan Clark, of Cambridge, Mass., in the construction and local correction of lenses for the telescope, for which the Rumford Medal has recently been awarded by the American Academy, mark a new era in astronomical observation. Recent discoveries in paleontology prove that man existed on this earth at a period far anterior to that commonly assigned to him. The chipped flints of the earliest races show that their condition was not that of civilization; to these rude implements succeeded more carefully shaped and polished stone weapons, then bronze was used, and, the last, before the historic period, iron.
Civilization, even to the extent of that of the Egyptians and the Central Americans, must have been of very slow growth; as invention is said to march with a geometrical progression, the earliest steps must have been exceedingly slow.
Time is the great element, both in the development of vegetable and animal life, and also in the progress of man from barbarism to civilization; and this must be a primary idea in the consideration of the theory of Darwin. In this relation we will conclude by quoting from the Inaugural Address of Mr. Grove, before alluded to. "The prejudices of education, and associations with the past, are against this (Darwin's theory of the origin of species by natural selection, etc.), as against all new views; and while, on the one hand, a theory is not to be accepted because it is new and primâ facie plausible, still, to this assembly, I need not say that its running counter to existing opinions is not necessarily a reason for its rejection; the onus probandi should rest on those who advance a new view, but the degree of proof must differ with the nature of the subject. The fair question is, Does the newly-proposed view remove more difficulties, require fewer assumptions, and present more consistency with observed facts, than that which it seeks to supersede? If so, the philosopher will adopt it, and the world will follow the philosopher after many days." He is strongly in favor of the new theory, disbelieving in per saltum or sudden creations, and maintains that continuity is a law of nature, the true expression of the action of Almighty Power, and that we should cease to look for special interventions of the creative act-"we should endeavor from the relics to evoke their history, and, when we find a gap, not try to bridge it over by a miracle."
The readers of the “Annual of Scientific Discovery" will be gratified to possess the fine Portrait of HON. David A. WELLS, U. S. Commissioner of Revenue, and late editor of this work, presented in the present volume.
ANNUAL OF SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY.
MECHANICS AND USEFUL ARTS.
THE greatest achievement, in a scientific point of view, which has occurred during the present year, is the successful laying of the Atlantic Telegraph Cable, from Valentia, on the coast of Ireland, 2,000 miles across the bed of the Atlantic Ocean, to Heart's Content, Newfoundland, electrically uniting Europe and America. This is not only a marked epoch in the progress of science, and a triumph over physical obstacles deemed insurmountable, but it is an event of great international interest, and an inestimable commercial boon-reflecting honor alike upon the skill of the mechanic, the science of the physicist, the intelligence of the seaman, and the liberality of the merchant.
Foremost among the names of those who have contributed to this successful result, is our countryman, Cyrus W. Field, who for nearly thirteen years has labored, through good and evil report, with indomitable energy, not resting till his cherished idea had become a reality.
From his remarks on various occasions, and from scientific journals of England and this country, the following account of the Atlantic Telegraph is condensed by the Editor.
Mr. Field, at a banquet given in his honor at New York, Nov. 15, 1866, gave a brief history of this great undertaking, reported in the "New York Times" of Nov. 16th, from which the following are extracts. Says Mr. Field:
"It is nearly thirteen years since half a dozen gentlemen of this city met at my house for four successive evenings, and, around a table covered with maps and charts, and plans and estimates, considered a project to extend a line of telegraph from Nova Scotia to St. Johns, in Newfoundland, thence to be carried across
the ocean. It was easy to draw a line from one point to the other-making no account of the forests and mountains and swamps and rivers and gulfs, that lay in our way. Not one of us had ever seen the country, or had any idea of the obstacles to be overcome. We thought we could build the line in a few months. It took two years and a half. The arduous and costly work was accomplished. A road was cut through 400 miles of wilderness, and after two attempts in 1855 and 1856, a cable, procured in England, was laid across the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Yet we never asked for help outside our own little circle. Indeed, I fear we should not have got it if we had—for few had any faith in our scheme. Every dollar came out of our own pockets. Yet I am proud to say no man drew back. No man proved a deserter; those who came first into the work have stood by it to the end. Of those six men, four are here to-night- Mr. Peter Cooper, Moses Taylor, Marshall O. Roberts, and myself. My brother Dudley is in Europe, and Mr. Chandler White died in 1856, and his place was supplied by Mr. Wilson G. Hunt, who is also here. Mr. Robert W. Lowber was our Secretary. To these gentlemen, as my first associates, it is but just that I should pay my first acknowledgments.
"From this statement you perceive that in the beginning this was wholly an American enterprise. It was begun, and for two years and a half was carried on, solely by American capital. Our brethren across the sea did not even know what we were doing away in the forests of Newfoundland. Our little company raised and expended over a million and a quarter of dollars before an Englishman paid a single pound sterling. Our only support outside was in the liberal character and steady friendship of the Government of Newfoundland, for which we were greatly indebted to Mr. E. M. Archibald, then Attorney-General of that colony, and now British Consul in New York. And in preparing for an ocean cable, the first soundings across the Atlantic were made by American officers in American ships. Our scientific men had taken great interest in the subject. The U. S. ship 'Dolphin,' discovered the telegraphic plateau as early as 1853; and the U. S. ship 'Arctic' sounded across from Newfoundland to Ireland in 1856, a year before H. M.'s ship 'Cyclops,' under command of Captain Dayman, went over the same course. This I state, not to take aught from the just praise of England, but simply to vindicate the truth of history.
"It was not till 1856 ten years ago that the enterprise had any existence in England. In that summer I went to London, and there, with Mr. John W. Brett, Mr. Charles Bright, and Dr. Whitehouse, organized the Atlantic Telegraph Company. Science had begun to contemplate the necessity of such an enterprise; and the great Faraday cheered us with his lofty enthusiasm. Then for the first time was enlisted the support of English capitalists; and then the British Government began that generous course which it has continued ever since- - offering us ships to complete soundings across the Atlantic, and to assist in laying the cable, and an annual subsidy for the transmission of messages.