Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

D. Thomson, were present from Glasgow; and J. P. Joule, and James Young, Esqs., from Manchester. Mr Pattinson, the well-known metallurgist, arrived from Newcastle, and H. C. Sorby, Esq., was deputed from Sheffield. Edinburgh itself was represented by Drs Christison, Gregory, Douglas M‘Lagan, George Wilson, Thomas Anderson, and Messrs A. Kemp and J. Tennant.

Dr Daúbeny gave an oral report on the action of carbonic acid on plants. The report itself was read in full in the Natural History section. Dr Lyon Playfair cominunicated two papers. The first referred to a law, already announced, as discovered by himself and Mr Joule, viz., that in many crystallised chemical compounds, which contain water, the substance occupies no greater space than the water in it would do, if frozen into ice; so that the non-aqueous constituents of the compound are as if they occupied no space at all. In his second paper, Dr Playfair reported the results of a most elaborate inquiry into the relative values of the dietaries in use by different classes of the population. The results were chiefly negative, and went to show that we are in nearly total ignorance as to the nature and amount of nutritive chemical substances which are requisite for the maintenance of health. Mr Robert Hunt communicated a lengthened report on the chemical action of solar radiations, in which, after giving a very clear and interesting historical sketch of the progress of discovery in this curious department of science, he explained the latest improvements which have been made in photogenic art, and vindicated his priority against the claims of the French observers to the discovery, that prepared paper can be rendered in the highest degree sensitive to solar action, by the combination of a fluoride with the other substances at present in use. Dr Thomas Anderson read two papers; the first gave an account of a series of important and most promising researches on the production of new and curious compounds by the action of oxidising agents on the organic bases, which can be extracted from plants. The second communication from the same gentleman was on the compounds of codeine, one of the crystallisable substances present in opium, and especially on its iodide, which is an exceedingly beautiful crystalline substance, exhibitiog markedly the phenomenon of dichroism, so that, looked at from one direction, the crystals are a ruby red, and, in another, a dark blue. Dr George Wilson communicated some curious unpublished particulars concerning the celebrated Dr Joseph Black, and exhibited to the section some of the pieces of apparatus belonging to him-among others, the pneumatic trough which he used in exhibiting the properties of fixed air to his class. This gentleman also laid before the section the results of an inquiry into the influence of sunlight in affecting the power of various dry gases to alter and destroy the tints of vegetable colours. Dr Wilson also exhibited specimens of glass etched by hydrofluoric acid, derived from blood and milk, in demonstration of his observation, that fluorine is contained in these animal liquids. Professor Williamson read a paper on the theory of etherification, which excited much interest, and led to a good deal of friendly discussion. Dr Gladstone and G. Gladstone, Esq., reported the results of some experiments on the growth of plants in atmospheres of hydrogen, nitrogen, and other gases. Dr Penny described a simple process for determining the amount of metallic iron in its ores; and James Stein, Esq., a new method of separating certain compounds of arsenic. Professor Chapman explained some new and curious views on the crystalline relations of silica and alumina. Me Petrie gave an account of his observation, that the metal potassium, in certain circumstances, phosphorises in a singular way. An interesting communication was made by Professor Buckman on the chemical changes which had occurred in the case of an ancient mosaic pavement brought to light at Cirencester a year ago. Dr Davy, Dr R. A. Smith, Professor Voeleker, and Dugald Campbell, Esq., communicated valuable papers referring to the chemical constituents of natural waters.

Dr Smith urged the importance of supplying towns with water which had percolated through porous strata, which have a remarkable power of depriving water of offensive organic matter, and charging it with the wholesome ingredient, carbonic acid. Professor Voelcker pointed out that the proportion of phosphoric acid present in natural waters is comparatively large, and will, in great measure, account for the well-known increase of fertility which attends irrigation with apparently pure water. Mr Campbell entered at some length into the process for determining the hardness of water; and Dr Davy communicated an important paper on the best means of preventing the formation of injurious incrustations

in the boilers of steam-engines. A communication was read from Professor Mulder of Utrecht on the presence of carbonates in blood; and Professor Voelcker announced his discovery, that the juices of plants frequently contain nitrogen in the form of ammonia, and that neglect of this fact has led to much error in the estimation of the nutritive value of articles of food. Professor Matteucci, of Pisa, explained the law which he had discovered, to regulate the conduction of electricity by the earth, when it is employed as a substitute for one of the wires of the electric telegraph. Dr Scoffern explained the great economy which attended the application of his new process for the manufacture of sugar, as tried in the south of Spain, where alone in Europe the sugar-cane is grown. Dr Gregory detailed experiments, demonstrating the excessive insolubility and apparent innoxiousness of the sulphite of lead. Mr Gassiot exhibited to the section a diamond, which had been ex. posed to the intense heat of the voltaic arc, and which had, in consequence, been converted into a substance somewhat like porcelain. Mr Joule described some very cu. rious combinations of mercury and the metals. Mr Sorby announced the interesting discovery, that coke is crystalline, and assumes the same geometrical form as the diamond, from which, however, its crystals vary in volume and density. Mr Sorby also demonstrated that anthracite, or blind coal, occurs in crystals. Mr H. Taylor read an important paper on the chemical composition of the rocks of the Coal Formation,

[graphic]

From this summary of the proceedings of the chemical section, it will be seen that many novel facts were brought before it, and new paths of inquiry indicated in various directions.

GEOLOGY AND PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY.

This section was very largely attended during the entire period of its sittings. Numerous papers were read, some of them of great importance; the discussions were always interesting, and sometimes carried on with considerable animation. Sir R. I. Murchison discharged the duties of president with great ability and tact; and it was mainly owing to his admirable management that the meetings were so delightful and satisfactory. A paper was read by Mr Ormerod of Manchester, on the gradual subsidence of Chat-moss by drainage. The author stated, that the result of four years observation showed that, over an extent of about 200 acres, the subsidence was proceeding at the rate of one foot per annum. Professor E. Forbes, London, placed be fore the section a communication on the Dorsetshire Purbecks, accompanied by a full set of diagrams. It cast much new and interesting light on the distribution of fresh water creatures during the Oolitic period. It is remarkable, that whilst the Parbecks may be divided into upper, middle, and lower, each marked by a peculiar assemblage of organic remains, the lines of demarcation between these sections are not lines of disturbance. Three times there is a complete change of life during the deposition of this series of fresh water and brackish strata ; but the cause of this must be sought for not in the sudden change of their area into land or sea, but in the great lapse d time which intervened between the epochs of deposition at certain periods during their formation. Several gentlemen made remarks upon the communication confirmatory of the views advanced in it, and the president said that he had listened to the paper with intense interest. At this stage of the proceedings, Professor Jameson took the chair, to allow Sir R. I. Murchison to deliver a paper on the discovery of carboniferous fossils in the crystalline chain of the Forez, and on the age of lines of dislocation between the upper and lower carboniferous deposits of France and Ger many. The conclusions to which this distinguished geologist has come, are these namely, that the beds in this chain, which have hitherto been received as transition rocks, are, in fact, true carboniferous deposits. This is proved by the fossils which they contain. And that very powerful dislocations have been produced, both in Germany and France, after the close of the deposits of the mountain or carboniferous limestone, and before the accumulation of the great over-lying coal-fields. The author contended, however, that dislocations in this particular point, in the great and wide-spread system, are local, and not general in their manifestation. This view of the question was corroborated by remarks offered by several geologists upon the phenomena observed in the Scotch coal-field. Mr Bryce read a paper at the sima sitting, on the Lesmahagow and Douglas coal-field—a trough-shaped series of bodo cut off from the great Scotch coal-field, by uprising magses of old red sandstone which gave rise to a good deal of animated discussion. Dr Fleming expressed his opinion, that the trap of the Ochils, to which reference had been made by some of the speaker was formed at the same time with the old red sandstone-an opinion which, in our judgment, should be somewhat qualified. In a glen on the estate of Kippenross, near Dunblane, we have ourselves observed an enorinous wedge-shaped mass of trap inserted into a continuous opening in the old red. Professor Phillips made some observations on the fossils laid on the table by Mr Bryce from the above coal-field, and urged him to prosecute his researches, as the specimens gave promise of a rich harvest.

The section was occupied the whole of the second day with papers and communieations bearing upon the phenomena, by many geologists thought to be due to ancient glacial action. These phenomena are very abundant in Scotland, and especially in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh. They occur also in all parts of Wales, and over extensive districts in the New World. Gentlemen who had examined all these countries, took part in the discussion that followed, thus giving to the subject a peculiar interest. Mr Robert Chambers read the first paper ; it was on the glacial phenomena of the neighbourhood of Edinburgh. This was followed by a paper from Mr Hugh Miller on peculiar scratched pebbles, chalk flints, and fossil specimens from the boulder clay in Caithness. Rev. Mr Longinuir also read a paper on the flints and greensands of Aberdeenshire ; while Messrs Hopkins and M‘Laren described respectively the dispersion of granite blocks from Ben Cruachan, and certain ridges and mounds of soil in Glenmessan which bore a resemblance to the morains of glaciers. Mr Smith of Jordanhill, Mr Strickland, Professor Hitchcock from America, Dr Martins from Paris, who spoke in French, and Professor James Forbes, took part in the discussion ; indeed, the intelligence and good taste of the meeting left it entirely in their bands. The conclusion to which the observations tended, though no authoritative deliverance was given, was the following: No one agency can be conceived as producing all the phenomena connected with this great and difficult subject. A part, perhaps a large part, is due to glacial action : a part is due to icebergs; and a part is due to water-waves of translation. The discussion, as well as the papers, on the glacial theory, presented a fine illustration of the caution, the courtesy, the largeness of view which philosophic minds manifest in considering a complicated and difficult problem.

The business of the section on the third day was opened by the reading of two able papers by Professor Hitchcock, on the terraces in New England, and erosion from river action. A smart discussion followed on the part that rivers have played in forming the narrow valleys and gorges that abound on the present surface of the globe. The general opinion seemed to be that their part was subordinate to the internal powers by which strata have been broken and upraised. The Duke of Argyll read a communication, accompanied with diagrams, on tertiary fossiliferous beds underlying basalt in the Island of Mull. The noble author said, that a large number of the Western Isles had been included by Dr M'Culloch under the name of the “ Trap Islands," and, of these, Skye was considered by him as the centre of the northern, as Mull was of the southern trap group. It would be seen from the map that Mull was entirely composed of trap, except at certain points of the coast where the lias and oolite appeared in cliffs of great elevation, and for the most part inaccessible. It must, however, be understood that the trap could only be considered as a superficial covering, inasmuch as so frequently, when sections of the strata were presented, the trap was found to overlie both secondary and, as it now appeared, tertiary beds. In the district of the Ross the trap is succeeded first by mica slate, and next by granite. The beds to which the paper referred occurred at the Promontory of Ardture, where the coast formed a sea-cleft about 130 feet high. A cross section was presented by a natural ravine ; and the following was the order of the beds in the descending order :

1. A bed of basalt, rudely but very obviously columnar.

2. A thin stratum of vegetable matter, almost entirely composed of compressed leaves of dicotyledonous trees.

3. A bed of tuff or volcanic ashes, closely resembling that found in the neighbourhood of Vesuvius, as well as that which had been found by Mr Smith of Jordanbill in Madeira ; and, as the duke was informed by Sir Charles Lyell, almost identical with that which he had found in Auvergne. This bed passed into a conglomerate of flint-many of them being unequivocally chalk flints.

4. A second bed of vegetable matter, from which the finer specimens were derived. 5. A second bed of tuff or volcanic ash.

6. A third bed of leaves, thinner than the others, and with fewer vegetable impressions.

P

7. A thick bed of amorphous basalt.
8. And lastly, dipping into the sea, highly and beautiful columnar basalt.

As no trunks of trees had yet been found, and as the leaves were mixed with plants of a reedy texture, a species of equisetum being specially marked, the duke concluded that the leaves had been lying in a shallow or marsh, in which, autumn after autumn, they had been accumulating, and that they had been overflown by a current of liquid mud, which had raised or floated individual leaves, leaving the mass of vegetable matter below almost pure; that this had again been succeeded by the volcanic ashes, which, though forming a distinct bed, had part of its substance in. volved in the upper portion of the leaf bed.

Professor E. Forbes said, when the noble duke had brought these specimens to London, he had been greatly struck with their beauty, but more especially with the locality from which they had been brought. He had never been led to suppose that there was any evidence of the Tertiaries in the Island of Mull. The leaves were so well marked, that they could not fail to refer them to that system they belonged to the plane, alder, &c. He had at first concluded that the fossils belonged to the Pleiocene Tertiary ; but, from some recent discoveries in Germany, he was inclined to believe that they were of earlier date, and belonged to the Eocene. He had been informed by Mr Nicol that the only dicotyledonous woods not coniferous belonging to the Scotch formation, which he had examined, came from the Isle of Mull, and were probably contemporary with those discovered by the Duke of Argyll.

This is a most important discovery; and the paper of the noble duke was undoubtedly the most important communication laid before the geological section. It enables the geologist, said Professor Sedgewick, to piece together all those similar patches of strata that are found in other parts, and thus leads him to enlarged views and great generalisations. Sir R. I. Murchison presented and described a geological map of the sedimentary deposits in Spain, communicated to him by M. de Verneuil, the distinguished French geologist. Papers were then read by Professor Nicol on the geology of the southern extremity of Cantyre; by Mr Harkness on the representatives of the mountain limestone of Dumfriesshire, and the position of the footprints in the Bunter sandstone in the same county; and by Sir William Jardine on the footprints in the sandstone quarry of Corncockle Muir, in the vale of the Aunan. The last paper led to some interesting discussion, in which Professors Hitchcock and Sedgewick took part.

The fourth day was occupied in hearing papers from Professor Ramsay on the position of the black slates of the Menai Straits ;—from Professor Nicol, a translation of M. Martins' communication, Parallele entre les Terrains Superficiels du basin Suisse, et de la Plaine du Po ;-from Professor Oldham on the temperature of mines in Ireland ;--from Mr H. Miller, on certain extraordinary peculiarities of structure in the more ancient ganoids ;- from Dr Anderson, on the fossil fishes and the yellow sandstone of Dura Den in Fife;from Professor Sedgewick, on the Palaeozoic rocks of the south of Scotland, &c. In all these papers, there were points of interest, and by all of them more or less light was thrown upon the subjects to which they referred; but the one which was universally felt to be of the greatest importance, was that by Mr Miller. It is quite impracticable for us to find a place in this brief article for this able paper; and to condense it, would be impossible. The author was highly complimented for his communication, by Sir R. I. Murchison. But few, he presumed, ever anticipated that Mr Miller would this day explain, as he had done, the organs of hearing, smelling, and seeing of the fishes of the old red sandstone. On the fifth day the papers were exhausted,

and the section spent an hour in hearing a description of a model of Arthur's Seat from Mr C. M'Laren, under the presidency of the Duke of Argyll.

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

and Mr Embleton, on the Anatomy of Doris, including the description of the true Sympathetic Nervous System in this Animal. C. C. Babington, F.L.S., remarks on Anacharis Alsinastrum. Dr Macdonald, F.R.S.E., on the Vertebral Homologies of the Basicranium.

The last day the section met, the following, besides other papers, were read :-Dr Carpenter, on the reparation of the spines of echinida ; Dr Carpenter, on the gigantic foraminifera of the Eocene period, and their existing representatives ; Dr Mantell, on the dental organs of iguanodon; Dr Hugh Cleghorn, on the grass cloth, the produce of Bohmeria nivea.

ETHNOLOGICAL SUBSECTIOX. · Dr Edward Hincks, on the Language and Mode of Writing of the Ancient Assyrians. Professor Rangabe of Athens, notices of some additions made to our knowledge of the Ancient Greeks, by recent discoveries in Greece. Daniel Wilson, Esq., inquiry into the evidence of the existence of Primitive Races in Scotland prior to the Celtæ,eith illustrative Crunia, fo. Mr Wilson showed, by a series of results established on carefully sifted data, that evidence may be produced to prove the existence of two primitive races in Scotland, differing decidedly in cranial characteristics from the Celtæ, but also differing in a remarkable manner from the two earliest races of Scandinavia, the primitive race of the north of Europe, apparently corresponding to the second race of the Scottish Tumuli.

The programme of business in this section for the second and third days was very voluminous; but our space will not permit us even to give the titles of the papers. We are anxious to afford as much space as possible to the very able address of Major Rawlinson, on the threefold system of cupiatic writing :

The first, or the Persian, was of the Arian family, closely allied to the Sanscrit. The Persians who spoke this language came apparently from the Oxys, about fifteen centuries before the Christian era. These Persians were met by the Assyrians about the Caspian gates, at the earliest period of their recorded history; and all the antique traditions of the race are connected with this particular tract of country. At a subsequent period they must have moved to the south. He considered that the present language of Persia was a direct derivation from the old language of the inscriptions; and he mentioned many circumstances confirmatory of that view. He then proceeded to consider the second branch of cuniatic writing, which he denominated Scythic, observing that it was, in all probability, the aboriginal language of Persia previous to the emigration of the Arian race. The grammatical fornis and propositions, &c., evidently connected the language with that of High Asia ; and there were other points of evidence, deducible from the language itself, tending to the same conclusion. He then went on to consider the third class of writing, which he denominated Assyrian and Babylonian. This, he stated, was of the Semitic character, being closely allied to the Hebrew and Chaldaic. The language in question had recently acquired great general interest from the discovery of the numerous inscriptions recently disinterred in Assyria and Babylonia by Mr Layard and others. There was a difference of opinion as to the antiquity of the earliest of the inscriptions. Mr Layard had himself conjectured that they ascended to the enormous antiquity of 2500 years before Christ. Others had reduced them so low as 700 or 800, the era of Shalmanazar and Senacherib, the Assyrian kings mentioned in Scripture. Major Rawlinson said he followed neither the one nor the other, but adopted a mean between the two-fixing the date of the earliest inscription at about 1300. His reason for fixing this date was, that the cities of Phænicia (Tyre, Sidon, Byblus, Aradus, &c.) were mentioned in the earliest inscriptions—thus showing that the date of these inscriptions must be posterior to the foundation of the cities in question. He further mentioned that all the geographical indications tended to show that the earliest Assyrian was about synchronous with the earliest inscriptions of the nineteenth and twentieth dynasties of Egypt. Another proof of the antiquity of the inscriptions was, that several Chaldean ones were noticed at Nimrod and Khorsabad, which appeared to be of great importance; whilst at the sites of those cities which had lately been visited by Mr Loftus, the inscriptions on the slabs and bricks make use of entirely geographical names--the conclusion being that a very considerable interval of time must have elapsed between the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »