Young Folks' Library: Wonders of Earth, Sea and Sky by Edward Singleton Holden (Editor) - HTML preview
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(From Starland.) BY
SIR ROBERT S. BALL.
The group of bodies which cluster around our sun forms a little island, so to speak, in the extent of infinite space. We may illustrate this by a map in which we shall endeavor to show the stars placed at their proper relative distances. We first open the compasses one inch, and thus draw a little circle to represent the path of the earth. We are not going to put in all the planets. We take Neptune, the outermost, at once. To draw its path I open the compasses to thirty inches, and draw a circle with that radius. That will do for our solar system, though the comets no doubt will roam beyond these limits. To complete our map we ought of course to put in some stars. There are a hundred million to choose from, and we shall begin with the brightest. It is often called the Dog Star, but astronomers know it better as Sirius. Let us see where it is to be placed on our [pg 297] map. Sirius is beyond Neptune, so it must be outside somewhere. Indeed, it is a good deal further off than Neptune; so I try at the edge of the drawing-board; I have got a method of making a little calculation that I do not intend to trouble you with, but I can assure you that the results it leads me to are quite correct; they show me that this board is not big enough. But could a board which was big enough fit into this lecture theatre? Here, again, I make my little calculations, and I find that there would not be room for a board sufficiently great; in fact, if I put the sun here at one end, with its planets around it? Sirius would be too near on the same scale if it were at the further corner. The board would have to go out through the wall of the theatre, out through London. Indeed, big as London is, it would not be large enough to contain the drawing-board that I should require. It would have to stretch about twenty miles from where we are now assembled. We may therefore dismiss any hope of making a practical map of our system on this scale if Sirius is to have its proper place. Let us, then, take some other star. We shall naturally try with the nearest of all. It is one that we do not know in this part of the world, but those that live in the southern hemisphere are well acquainted with it. The name of this star is Alpha Centauri. Even for this star we should require a drawing three or four miles long if the distance from the earth to the sun is to be taken as one inch. You see what an isolated position our sun and his planets occupy. The members of the family are all close together, and the nearest neighbors are situated at enormous distances. There is a good reason [pg 298] for this separation. The stars are very pretty and perfectly harmless to us where they are at present situated. They might be very troublesome neighbors if they were very much closer to our system. It is therefore well they are so far off; they would be constantly making disturbances in the sun's family if they were near at hand. Sometimes they would be dragging us into unpleasantly great heat by bringing us too close to the sun, or producing a coolness by pulling us away from the sun, which would be quite as disagreeable.The Stars are Suns.
We are about to discuss one of the grandest truths in the whole of nature. We have had occasion to see that this sun of ours is a magnificent globe immensely larger than the greatest of his planets, while the greatest of these planets is immensely larger than this earth; but now we are to learn that our sun is, indeed, only a star not nearly so bright as many of those which shine over our heads every night. We are comparatively close to the sun, so that we are able to enjoy his beautiful light and cheering heat. Each of those other myriads of stars is a sun, and the splendor of those distant suns is often far greater than that of our own. We are, however, so enormously far from them that they appear dwindled down to insignificance. To judge impartially between our sun or star and such a sun or star as Sirius we should stand halfway between the two; it is impossible to make a fair estimate when we find ourselves situated close to one star and a million times as far from the other. After allowance is made for the imperfections of our point of view, we are [pg 299] enabled to realize the majestic truth that the sun is no more than a star, and that the other stars are no less than suns. This gives us an imposing idea of the extent and magnificence of the universe in which we are situated. Look lip at the sky at night—you will see a host of stars; try to think that every one of them is itself a sun. It may probably be that those suns have planets circling round them, but it is hopeless for us to expect to see such planets. Were you standing on one of those stars and looking towards our system, you would not perceive the sun to be the brilliant and gorgeous object that we know so well. If you could see him at all, he would merely seem like a star, not nearly as bright as many of those you can see at night. Even if you had the biggest of telescopes to aid your vision, you could never discern from one of these bodies the planets which surround the sun, no astronomer in the stars could see Jupiter, even if his sight were a thousand times as powerful as any sight or telescope that we know. So minute an object as our earth would, of course, be still more hopelessly beyond the possibility of vision.The Number of the Stars.
To count the stars involves a task which lies beyond the power of man to accomplish. Even without the aid of any telescope, we can see a great multitude of stars from this part of the world. There are also many constellations in the southern hemisphere which never appear above our horizon. If, however, we were to go to the equator, then, by waiting there for a twelve-month, all the stars in the heavens would have been [pg 300] successively exposed to view. An astronomer, Houzeau, with the patience to count them, enumerated about six thousand. This is the naked-eye estimate of the star-population of the heavens; but if instead of relying on unaided vision, you get the assistance of a little telescope, you will be astounded at the enormous multitude of stars which are disclosed.
An ordinary opera-glass or binocular is a very useful instrument for looking at the stars in the heavens. If you employ an instrument of this sort, you will be amazed to find that the heavens teem with additional hosts of stars that your unaided vision would never have given you knowledge of. Any part of the sky may be observed; but, just to give an illustration, I shall take one special region, namely, that of the Great Bear (Fig. 1). The seven well-known stars are here shown, four of which form a sort of oblong, while the other three represent the tail. I would like you to make this little experiment. On a fine clear night, count how many stars there are within this oblong; they are all very faint, but you will be able to see a few, and, with good sight, and on a clear night, you may see perhaps ten. Next take your opera-glass and sweep it over the same region; if you will carefully count the stars[pg 301] it shows, you will find fully two hundred; so that the operaglass has, in this part of the sky, revealed nearly twenty times as many stars as could be seen without its aid. As six thousand stars can be seen by the eye all over the heavens, we may fairly expect that twenty times that number—that is to say, one hundred and twenty thousand stars—could be shown by the opera-glass over the entire sky. Let us go a step further, and employ a telescope, the object-glass of which is three inches across. This is a useful telescope to have, and, if a good one, will show multitudes of pleasing objects, though an astronomer would not consider it very powerful. An instrument like this, small enough to be carried in the hand, has been applied to the task of enumerating the stars in the northern half of the sky, and three hundred and twenty thousand stars were counted. Indeed, the actual number that might have been seen with it is considerably greater, for when the astronomer Argelander made this memorable investigation he was unable to reckon many of the stars in localities where they lay very close together. This grand count only extended to half the sky, and, assuming that the other half is as richly inlaid with stars, we see that a little telescope like that we have supposed will, when swept over the heavens, reveal a number of stars which exceeds that of the population of any city in England except London. It exhibits more than one hundred times as many stars as our eyes could possibly reveal. Still, we are only at the beginning of the count; the very great telescopes add largely to the number. There are multitudes of stars which in small instruments [pg 302] we cannot see, but which are distinctly visible from our great observatories. That telescope would be still but a comparatively small one which would show as many stars in the sky as there are people living in the mighty city of London; and with the greatest instruments, the tale of stars has risen to a number far greater than that of the entire population of Great Britain.
In addition to those stars which the largest telescopes show us, there are myriads which make their presence evident in a wholly different way. It is only in quite recent times that an attempt has been made to develop fully the powers of photography in representing the celestial objects. On a photographic plate which has been exposed to the sky in a great telescope the stars are recorded by thousands. Many of these may, of course, be observed with a good telescope, but there are not a few others which no one ever saw in a telescope, which apparently no one ever could see, though the photograph is able to show them. We do not, however, employ a camera like that which the photographer uses who is going to take your portrait. The astronomer's plate is put into his telescope, and then the telescope is turned towards the sky. On that plate the stars produce their images, each by its own light. Some of these images are excessively faint, but we give a very long exposure of an hour or two hours; sometimes as much as four hours' exposure is given to a plate so sensitive that a mere fraction of a second would sufficiently expose it during the ordinary practice of taking a photograph in daylight. We thus afford sufficient time to enable the fainter objects to indicate their presence [pg 303] upon the sensitive film. Even with an exposure of a single hour a picture exhibiting sixteen thousand stars has been taken by Mr. Isaac Roberts, of Liverpool. Yet the portion of the sky which it represents is only one ten-thousandth part of the entire heavens. It should be added that the region which Mr. Roberts has photographed is furnished with stars in rather exceptional profusion.
Here, at last, we have obtained some conception of the sublime scale on which the stellar universe is constructed. Yet even these plates cannot represent all the stars that the heavens contain. We have every reason for knowing that with larger telescopes, with more sensitive plates, with more prolonged exposures, ever fresh myriads of stars will be brought within our view.
You must remember that every one of these stars is truly a sun, a lamp, as it were, which doubtless gives light to other objects in its neighborhood as our sun sheds light upon this earth and the other planets. In fact, to realize the glories of the heavens you should try to think that the brilliant points you see are merely the luminous points of the otherwise invisible universe.
Standing one fine night on the deck of a Cunarder we passed in open ocean another great Atlantic steamer. The vessel was near enough for us to see not only the light from the mast-head but also the little beams from the several cabin ports; and we could see nothing of the ship herself. Her very existence was only known to us by the twinkle of these lights. Doubtless her passengers could see, and did see, the similar lights from our own vessel, and they probably drew the correct inference that these lights indicated a great ship. [pg 304] Consider the multiplicity of beings and objects in a ship: the captain and the crew, the passengers, the cabins, the engines, the boats, the rigging, and the stores. Think of all the varied interests there collected and then reflect that out on the ocean, at night, the sole indication of the existence of this elaborate structure was given by the few beams of light that happened to radiate from it. Now raise your eyes to the stars; there are the twinkling lights. We cannot see what those lights illuminate, we can only conjecture what untold wealth of non-luminous bodies may also lie in their vicinity; we may, however, feel certain that just as the few gleaming lights from a ship are utterly inadequate to give a notion of the nature and the contents of an Atlantic steamer, so are the twinkling stars utterly inadequate to give even the faintest conception of the extent and the interest of the universe. We merely see self-luminous bodies, but of the multitudes of objects and the elaborate systems of which these bodies are only the conspicuous points we see nothing and we know very little. We are, however, entitled to infer from an examination of our own star—the sun—and of the beautiful system by which it is surrounded, that these other suns may be also splendidly attended. This is quite as reasonable a supposition as that a set of lights seen at night on the Atlantic Ocean indicates the existence of a fine ship.The Clusters of Stars.
On a clear night you can often see, stretching across the sky, a track of faint light, which is known to astronomers as the "Milky Way." It extends below the [pg 305] horizon, and then round the earth to form a girdle about the heavens. When we examine the Milky Way with a telescope we find, to our amazement, that it consists of myriads of stars, so small and so faint that we are not able to distinguish them individually; we merely see the glow produced from their collective rays. Remembering that our sun is a star, and that the Milky Way surrounds us, it would almost seem as if our sun were but one of the host of stars which form this cluster.
There are also other clusters of stars, some of which are exquisitely beautiful telescopic spectacles. I may mention a celebrated pair of these objects which lies in the constellation of Perseus. The sight of them in a great telescope is so imposing that no one who is fit to look through a telescope could resist a shout of wonder and admiration when first they burst on his view. But there are other clusters. Here is a picture of one which is known as the "Globular Cluster in the Centaur" (Fig. 2). It consists of a ball of stars, so far off that, however large these several suns may actually be, they have dwindled down to extremely small points of light. A homely illustration may serve to show the appearance which a globular cluster presents in a good telescope. I take a pepper-caster, and on a sheet of [pg 306] white paper I begin to shake out the pepper until there is a little heap at the centre and other grains are scattered loosely about. Imagine that every one of those grains of pepper was to be transformed into a tiny electric light, and then you have some idea of what a cluster of stars would look like when viewed through a telescope of sufficient power. There are multitudes of such groups scattered through the depths of space. They require our biggest telescopes to show them adequately. We have seen that our sun is a star, being only one of a magnificent cluster that forms the Milky Way. We have also seen that there are other groups scattered through the length and depth of space. It is thus we obtain a notion of the rank which our earth holds in the scheme of things celestial.
The Rank of the Earth as a Globe in Space.
Let me give an illustration with the view of explaining more fully the nature of the relation which the earth bears to the other globes which abound through space, and you must allow me to draw a little upon my imagination. I shall suppose that the mails of our country extend not only over this globe, but that they also communicate with other worlds; that postal arrangements exist between Mars and the earth, between the sun and Orion—in fact, everywhere throughout the whole extent of the universe. We shall consider how our letters are to be addressed. Let us take the case of Mr. John Smith, merchant, who lives at 1001, Piccadilly; and let us suppose that Mr. John Smith's business transactions are of such an extensive nature that they reach not only all over this globe, but away throughout space. [pg 307] I shall suppose that the firm has a correspondent residing—let us say in the constellation of the Great Bear; and when this man of business wants to write to Mr. Smith from these remote regions, what address must he put upon the letter, so that the Postmaster-General of the universe shall make no mistake about its delivery? He will write as follows:—MR. JOHN SMITH, 1001 Piccadilly, London, England, Europe, Earth, Near the Sun, Milky Way, The Universe.
Let us now see what the several lines of this address mean. Of course we put down the name of Mr. John Smith in the first line, and then we will add "1001 Piccadilly" for the second; but as the people in the Great Bear are not likely to know where Piccadilly is, we shall add "London" underneath. As even London itself cannot be well known everywhere, it is better to write "England." This would surely find Mr. John Smith from any post-office on this globe. From other globes, however, the supreme importance of England may not be so immediately recognized, and therefore it is as well to add another line, "Europe." This ought to be sufficient, I think, for any post-office in the solar system. Europe is big enough to be visible from Mars or Venus, and should be known to the postoffice people there, just as we know and have names for the continents on Mars. But further away there might be a [pg 308] little difficulty; from Uranus and Neptune the different regions on our earth can never have been distinguished, and therefore we must add another line to indicate the particular globe of the solar system which contains Europe. Mark Twain tells us that there was always one thing in astronomy which specially puzzled him, and that was to know how we found out the names of the stars. We are, of course, in hopeless ignorance of the name by which this earth is called among other intelligent beings elsewhere who can see it. I can only adopt the title of "Earth," and therefore I add this line. Now our address is so complete that from anywhere in the solar system—from Mercury, from Jupiter, or Neptune—there ought to be no mistake about the letter finding its way to Mr. John Smith. But from his correspondent in the Great Bear this address would be still incomplete; they cannot see our earth from there, and even the sun himself only looks like a small star—like one, in fact, of thousands of stars elsewhere. However, each star can be distinguished, and our sun may, for instance, be recognized from the Great Bear by some designation. We shall add the line "Near the Sun," and then I think that from this constellation, or from any of the other stars around us, the address of Mr. John Smith may be regarded as complete. But Mr. Smith's correspondence may be still wider. He may have an agent living in the cluster of Perseus or on some other objects still fainter and more distant; then "Near the Sun" is utterly inadequate as a concluding line to the address, for the sun, if it can be seen at all from thence, will be only of the significance of an excessively minute star, no more to be [pg 309] designated by a special name than are each of the several leaves on the trees of a forest. What this distant correspondent will be acquainted with is not the earth or the sun but only the cluster of stars among which the sun is but a unit. Again we use our own name to denote the cluster, and we call it the "Milky Way." When we add this line, we have made the address of Mr. John Smith as complete as circumstances will permit. I think a letter posted to him anywhere ought to reach its destination. To perfect it, however, we will finish up with one line more—"The Universe."The Distances of the Stars.
I must now tell you something about the distances of the stars. I shall not make the attempt to explain fully how astronomers make such measurements, but I will give you some notion of how it is done. You may remember I showed you how we found the distance of a globe that was hung from the ceiling. The principle of the method for finding the distance of a star is somewhat similar, except that we make the two observations not from the two ends of a table, not even from opposite sides of the earth, but from two opposite points on the earth's orbit, which are therefore at a distance of one hundred and eighty-six million miles. Imagine that on Midsummer Day, when standing on the earth here, I measure with a piece of card the angle between the star and the sun. Six months later, on Midwinter Day, when the earth is at the opposite point of its orbit, I again measure the angle between the same star and the sun, and we can now determine the star's distance by making a triangle. I draw a line a foot [pg 310] long, and we will take this foot to represent one hundred and eighty-six million miles, the distance between the two stations; then placing the cards at the corners, I rule the two sides and complete the triangle, and the star must be at the remaining corner; then I measure the sides of the triangle, and how many feet they contain, and recollecting that each foot corresponds to one hundred and eighty-six million miles, we discover the distance of the star. If the stars were comparatively near us, the process would be a very simple one; but, unfortunately, the stars are so extremely far off that this triangle, even with a base of only one foot, must have its sides many miles long. Indeed, astronomers will tell you that there is no more delicate or troublesome work in the whole of their science than that of discovering the distance of a star.
In all such measurements we take the distance from the earth to the sun as a conveniently long measuring-rod, whereby to express the results. The nearest stars are still hundreds of thousands of times as far off as the sun. Let us ponder for a little on the vastness of these distances. We shall first express them in miles. Taking the sun's distance to be ninetythree million miles, then the distance of the nearest fixed star is about twenty millions of millions of miles—that is to say, we express this by putting down a 2 first, and then writing thirteen ciphers after it. It is, no doubt, easy to speak of such figures, but it is a very different matter when we endeavor to imagine the awful magnitude which such a number indicates. I must try to give some illustrations which will enable you to form a notion of it. At first I was going to ask you to try and [pg 311] count this number, but when I found it would require at least three hundred thousand years, counting day and night without stopping, before the task was over, it became necessary to adopt some other method.
When on a visit in Lancashire I was once kindly permitted to visit a cotton mill, and I learned that the cotton yarn there produced in a single day would be long enough to wind round this earth twenty-seven times at the equator. It appears that the total production of cotton yarn each day in all the mills together would be on the average about one hundred and fifty-five million miles. In fact, if they would only spin about one-fifth more, we could assert that Great Britain produced enough cotton yarn every day to stretch from the earth to the sun and back again! It is not hard to find from these figures how long it would take for all the mills in Lancashire to produce a piece of yarn long enough to reach from our earth to the nearest of the stars. If the spinners worked as hard as ever they could for a year, and if all the pieces were then tied together, they would extend to only a small fraction of the distance; nor if they worked for ten years, or for twenty years, would the task be fully accomplished. Indeed, upwards of four hundred years would be necessary before enough cotton could be grown in America and spun in this country to stretch over a distance so enormous. All the spinning that has ever yet been done in the world has not formed a long enough thread!
There is another way in which we can form some notion of the immensity of these sidereal distances. You will recollect that, when we were speaking of Jupiter's moons, I told you of the beautiful discovery [pg 312] which their eclipses enabled astronomers to make. It was thus found that light travels at the enormous speed of about one hundred and eightyfive thousand miles per second. It moves so quickly that within a single second a ray would flash two hundred times from London to Edinburgh and back again.
We said that a meteor travels one hundred times as swiftly as a rifle-bullet; but even this great speed seems almost nothing when compared with the speed of light, which is ten thousand times as great. Suppose some brilliant outbreak of light were to take place in a distant star—an outbreak which would be of such intensity that the flash from it would extend far and wide throughout the universe. The light would start forth on its voyage with terrific speed. Any neighboring star which was at a distance of less than one hundred and eighty-five thousand miles would, of course, see the flash within a second after it had been produced. More distant bodies would receive the intimation after intervals of time proportioned to their distances. Thus, if a body were one million miles away, the light would reach it in from five to six seconds, while over a distance as great as that which separates the earth from the sun the news would be carried in about eight minutes. We can calculate how long a time must elapse ere the light shall travel over a distance so great as that between the star and our earth. You will find that from the nearest of the stars the time required for the journey will be over three years. Ponder on all that this involves. That outbreak in the star might be great enough to be visible here, but we could never become aware of it till three years after [pg 313] it had happened. When we are looking at such a star to-night we do not see it as it is at present, for the light that is at this moment entering our eyes has travelled so far that it has been three years on the way. Therefore, when we look at the star now we see it as it was three years previously. In fact, if the star were to go out altogether, we might still continue to see it twinkling for a period of three years longer, because a certain amount of light was on its way to us at the moment of extinction, and so long as that light keeps arriving here, so long shall we see the star showing as brightly as ever. When, therefore, you look at the thousands of stars in the sky to-night, there is not one that you see as it is now, but as it was years ago. I have been speaking of the stars that are nearest to us, but there are others much farther off. It is true we cannot find the distances of these more remote objects with any degree of accuracy, but we can convince ourselves how great that distance is by the following reasoning. Look at one of the brightest stars. Try to conceive that the object was carried away further into the depths of space, until it was ten times as far from us as it is at present, it would still remain bright enough to be recognized in quite a small telescope; even if it were taken to one hundred times its original distance it would not have withdrawn from the view of a good telescope; while if it retreated one thousand times as far as it was at first it would still be a recognizable point in our mightiest instruments. Among the stars which we can see with our telescopes, we feel confident there must be many from which the light has expended hundreds of years, or even thousands of years, [pg 314] on the journey. When, therefore, we look at such objects, we see them, not as they are now, but as they were ages ago; in fact, a star might have ceased to exist for thousands of years, and still be seen by us every night as a twinkling point in our great telescopes.
Remembering these facts, you will, I think, look at the heavens with a new interest. There is a bright star, Vega, or Alpha Lyræ, a beautiful gem, so far off that the light from it which now reaches our eyes started before many of my audience were born. Suppose that there are astronomers residing on worlds amid the stars, and that they have sufficiently powerful telescopes to view this globe, what do you think they would observe? They will not see our earth as it is at present; they will see it as it was years (and sometimes many years) ago. There are stars from which if England could now be seen, the whole of the country would be observed at this present moment to be in a great state of excitement at a very auspicious event. Distant astronomers might notice a great procession in London, and they could watch the coronation of a youthful queen amid the enthusiasm of a nation. There are other stars still further, from which, if the inhabitants had good enough telescopes, they would now see a mighty battle in progress not far from Brussels. One splendid army could be beheld hurling itself time after time against the immovable ranks of the other. They would not, indeed, be able to hear the ever-memorable "Up, Guards, and at them!" but there can be no doubt that there are stars so far away that the rays of light which started from the earth on the day of the battle of Waterloo are only just arriving there. Further off [pg 315] still, there are stars from which a bird's-eye view could be taken at this very moment of the signing of Magna Charta. There are even stars from which England, if it could be seen at all, would now appear, not as the great England we know, but as a country covered by dense forests, and inhabited by painted savages, who waged incessant war with wild beasts that roamed through the island. The geological problems that now puzzle us would be quickly solved could we only go far enough into space and had we only powerful enough telescopes. We should then be able to view our earth through the successive epochs of past geological time; we should be actually able to see those great animals whose fossil remains are treasured in our museums tramping about over the earth's surface, splashing across its swamps, or swimming with broad flippers through its oceans. Indeed, if we could view our own earth reflected from mirrors in the stars, we might still see Moses crossing the Red Sea, or Adam and Eve being expelled from Eden.
So important is the subject of star distance that I am tempted to give one more illustration in order to bring before you some conception of how vast such distances are. I shall take, as before, the nearest of the stars so far as known to us, and I hope to be forgiven for taking an illustration of a practical and a commercial kind instead of one more purely scientific. I shall suppose that a railway is about to be made from London to Alpha Centauri. The length of that railway, of course, we have already stated: it is twenty billions of miles. So I am now going to ask your attention to the simple question as to the fare which it would be reasonable to [pg 316] charge for the journey. We shall choose a very cheap scale on which to compute the price of a ticket. The parliamentary rate here is, I believe, a penny for every mile. We will make our interstellar railway fares much less even than this; we shall arrange to travel at the rate of one hundred miles for every penny. That, surely, is moderate enough. If the charges were so low that the journey from London to Edinburgh only cost fourpence, then even the most unreasonable passenger would be surely contented. On these terms how much do you think the fare from London to this star ought to be? I know of one way in which to make our answer intelligible. There is a National Debt with which your fathers are, unhappily, only too well acquainted; you will know quite enough about it yourselves in those days when you have to pay income tax. This debt is so vast that the interest upon it is about sixty thousand pounds a day, the whole amount of the National Debt being six hundred and thirty-eight millions of pounds.
If you went to the booking-office with the whole of this mighty sum in your pocket—but stop a moment; could you carry it in your pocket? Certainly not, if it were in sovereigns. You would find that after you had as many sovereigns as you could conveniently carry there would still be some left—so many, indeed, that it would be necessary to get a cart to help you on with the rest. When the cart had as great a load of sovereigns as the horse could draw there would be still some more, and you would have to get another cart; but ten carts, twenty carts, fifty carts, would not be enough. You would want five thousand of these before you [pg 317] would be able to move off towards the station with your money. When you did get there and asked for a ticket at the rate of one hundred miles for a penny, do you think you would get any change? No doubt some little time would be required to count the money, but when it was counted the clerk would tell you that there was not enough—that he must have nearly two hundred millions of pounds more.
That will give some notion of the distance of the nearest star, and we may multiply it by ten, by one hundred, and even by one thousand, and still not attain to the distance of some of the more remote stars that the telescope shows us.
On account of the immense distances of the stars we can only perceive them to be mere points of light. We can never see a star to be a globe with marks on it like the moon, or like one of the planets—in fact, the better the telescope the smaller does the star seem, though, of course, its brightness is increased with every addition to the light-grasping power of the instrument.The Brightness and Color of Stars.
Another point to be noticed is the arrangement of stars in classes, according to their lustre. The brightest stars, of which there are about twenty, are said to be of the first magnitude. Those just inferior to the first magnitude are ranked as the second; and those just lower than the second are estimated as the third; and so on. The smallest points that your unaided eyes will show you are of about the sixth magnitude. Then the telescope will reveal stars still fainter and fainter, down to what we term the seventeenth or eighteenth [pg 318] magnitudes, or even lower still. The number of stars of each magnitude increases very much in the classes of small ones.
Most of the stars are white, but many are of a somewhat ruddy hue. There are a few telescopic points which are intensely red, some exhibit beautiful golden tints, while others are blue or green.
There are some curious stars which regularly change their brilliancy. Let me try to illustrate the nature of these variables. Suppose that you were looking at a street gas-lamp from a very long distance, so that it seemed a little twinkling light; and suppose that some one was preparing to turn the gas-cock up and down. Or, better still, imagine a little machine which would act regularly so as to keep the light first of all at its full brightness for two days and a half, and then gradually turn it down until in three or four hours it declines to a feeble glimmer. In this low state the light remains for twenty minutes; then during three or four hours the gas is to be slowly turned on again until it is full. In this condition the light will remain for two days and a half, and then the same series of changes is to recommence. This would be a very odd form of gas-lamp. There would be periods of two days and a half during which it would remain at its full; these would be separated by intervals of about seven hours, when the gradual turning down and turning up again would be in progress.
The imaginary gas-lamp is exactly paralleled by a star Algol, in the constellation of Perseus (Fig. 3), which goes through the series of changes I have indicated. Ordinarily speaking, it is a bright star of the [pg 319] second magnitude, and, whatever be the cause, the star performs its variations with marvellous uniformity. In fact, Algol has always arrested the attention of those who observed the heavens, and in early times was looked on as the eye of a demon. There are many other stars which also change their brilliancy. Most of them require much longer periods than Algol, and sometimes a new star which nobody has ever seen before will suddenly kindle into brilliancy. It is now known that the bright star Algol is attended by a dark companion. This dark star sometimes comes between Algol and the observer and cuts off the light. Thus it is that the diminution of brightness is produced.Double Stars.
Whenever you have a chance of looking at the heavens through a telescope, you should ask to be shown what is called a double star. There are many stars in the heavens which present no remarkable appearance to the unaided eye, but which a good telescope at once shows to be of quite a complex nature. [pg 320] These are what we call double stars, in which two quite distinct stars are placed so close together that the unaided eye is unable to separate them. Under the magnifying power of the telescope, however, they are seen to be distinct. In order to give some notion of what these objects are like, I shall briefly describe three of them. The first lies in that best known constellation, the Great Bear. If you look at his tail, which consists of three stars, you will see that near the middle one of the three a small star is situated; we call this little star Alcor, but it is the brighter one near Alcor to which I specially call your attention. The sharpest eye would never suspect that it was composed of two stars placed close together. Even a small telescope will, however, show this to be the case, and this is the easiest and the first observation that a young astronomer should make when beginning to turn a telescope to the heavens. Of course you will not imagine that I mean Alcor to be the second component of the double star; it is the bright star near Alcor which is the double. Here are two marbles, and these marbles are fastened an inch apart. You can see them, of course, to be separate; but if the pair were moved further and further away, then you would soon not be able to distinguish between them, though the actual distance between the marbles had not altered. Look at these two wax tapers which are now lighted; the little flames are an inch apart. You would have to view them from a station a third of a mile away if the distance between the two flames were to appear the same as that between the two components of this double star. Your eye would never be able to discriminate between two [pg 321] lights only an inch apart at so great a distance; a telescope would, however, enable you to do so, and this is the reason why we have to use telescopes to show us double stars.
You might look at that double star year after year throughout the course of a long life without finding any appreciable change in the relative positions of its components. But we know that there is no such thing as rest in the universe; even if you could balance a body so as to leave it for a moment at rest, it would not stay there, for the simple reason that all the bodies round it in every direction are pulling at it, and it is certain that the pull in one direction will preponderate, so that move it must. Especially is this true in the case of two suns like those forming a double star. Placed comparatively near each other they could not remain permanently in that position; they must gradually draw together and come into collision with an awful crash. There is only one way by which such a disaster could be averted. That is by making one of these stars revolve around the other just as the earth revolves around the sun, or the moon revolves around the earth. Some motion must, therefore, be going on in every genuine double star, whether we have been able to see that motion or not.
Let us now look at another double star of a different kind. This time it is in the constellation of Gemini. The heavenly twins are called Castor and Pollux. Of these, Castor is a very beautiful double star, consisting of two bright points, a great deal closer together than were those in the Great Bear; consequently a better telescope is required for the purpose of showing them[pg 322] separately. Castor has been watched for many years, and it can be seen that one of these stars is slowly revolving around the other; but it takes a very long time, amounting to hundreds of years, for a complete circuit to be accomplished. This seems very astonishing, but when you remember how exceedingly far Castor is, you will perceive that that pair of stars which appear so close together that it requires a telescope to show them apart must indeed be separated by hundreds of millions of miles. Let us try to conceive our own system transformed into a double star. If we took our outermost planet—Neptune—and enlarged him a good deal, and then heated him sufficiently to make him glow like a sun, he would still continue to revolve round our sun at the same distance, and thus a double star would be produced. An inhabitant of Castor who turned his telescope towards us would be able to see the sun as a star. He would not, of course, be able to see the earth, but he might see Neptune like another small star close to the sun. If generations of astronomers in Castor continued their observations of our system, they would find a binary star, of which one component took a century and a half to go round the other. Need we then be surprised that when we look at Castor we observe movements that seem very slow?
There is often so much diffused light about the bright stars seen in a telescope, and so much twinkling in some states of the atmosphere, that stars appear to dance about in rather a puzzling fashion, especially to one who is not accustomed to astronomical observations. I remember hearing how a gentleman once came to visit an observatory. The astronomer showed him [pg 323] Castor through a powerful telescope as a fine specimen of a double star, and then, by way of improving his little lesson, the astronomer mentioned that one of these stars was revolving around the other. "Oh, yes," said the visitor, "I saw them going round and round in the telescope." He would, however, have had to wait for a few centuries with his eye to the instrument before he would have been entitled to make this assertion.
Double stars also frequently delight us by giving beautifully contrasted colors. I dare say you have often noticed the red and the green lights that are used on railways in the signal lamps. Imagine one of those red and one of those green lights away far up in the sky and placed close together, then you would have some idea of the appearance that a colored double star presents, though, perhaps, I should add that the hues in the heavenly bodies are not so vividly different as are those which our railway people find necessary. There is a particularly beautiful double star of this kind in the constellation of the Swan. You could make an imitation of it by boring two holes, with a red-hot needle, in a piece of card, and then covering one of these holes with a small bit of the topaz-colored gelatine with which Christmas crackers are made. The other star is to be similarly colored with blue gelatine. A slide made on this principle placed in the lantern gives a very good representation of these two stars on the screen. There are many other colored doubles besides this one; and, indeed, it is noteworthy that we hardly ever find a blue or a green star by itself in the sky; it is always as a member of one of these pairs.[pg 324]How We Find What the Stars are Made of.
Here is a piece of stone. If I wanted to know what it was composed of, I should ask a chemist to tell me. He would take it into his laboratory, and first crush it into powder, and then, with his test tubes, and with the liquids which his bottles contain, and his weighing scales, and other apparatus, he would tell all about it; there is so much of this, and so much of that, and plenty of this, and none at all of that. But now, suppose you ask this chemist to tell you what the sun is made of, or one of the stars. Of course, you have not a sample of it to give him; how, then, can he possibly find out anything about it? Well, he can tell you something, and this is the wonderful discovery that I want to explain to you. We now put down the gas, and I kindle a brilliant red light. Perhaps some of those whom I see before me have occasionally ventured on the somewhat dangerous practice of making fire-works. If there is any boy here who has ever constructed sky-rockets, and put the little balls into the top which are to burn with such vivid colors when the explosion takes place, he will know that the substance which tinged that fire red must have been strontium. He will recognize it by the color; because strontium gives a red light which nothing else will give. Here are some of these lightning papers, as they are called; they are very pretty and very harmless; and these, too, give brilliant red flashes as I throw them. The red tint has, no doubt, been produced by strontium also. You see we recognized the substance simply by the color of the light it produced when burning.
Perhaps some of you have tried to make a ghost at Christmas by dressing up in a sheet, and bearing in your hand a ladle blazing with a mixture of common salt and spirits of wine, the effect produced being a most ghastly one. Some mammas will hardly thank me for this suggestion, unless I add that the ghost must walk about cautiously, for otherwise the blazing spirit would be very apt to produce conflagrations of a kind more extensive than those intended. However, by the kindness of Professor Dewar, I am enabled to show the phenomenon on a splendid scale, and also free from all danger. I kindle a vivid flame of an intensely yellow color, which I think the ladies will unanimously agree is not at all becoming to their complexions, while the pretty dresses have lost their variety of colors. Here is a nice bouquet, and yet you can hardly distinguish the green of the leaves from the brilliant colors of the flowers, except by trifling differences of shade. Expose to this light a number of pieces of variously colored ribbon, pink and red and green and blue, and their beauty is gone; and yet we are told that this yellow is a perfectly pure color; in fact, the purest color that can be produced. I think we have to be thankful that the light which our good sun sends us does not possess purity of that description. There is one substance which will produce that yellow light; it is a curious metal called sodium—a metal so soft that you can cut it with a knife, and so light that it will float on water; while, still more strange, it actually takes fire the moment it is dropped on the water. It is only in a chemical laboratory that you will be likely to meet with the actual metallic sodium, yet in other forms the [pg 326] substance is one of the most abundant in nature. Indeed, common salt is nothing but sodium closely united with a most poisonous gas, a few respirations of which would kill you. But this strange metal and this noxious gas, when united, become simply the salt for our eggs at breakfast. This pure yellow light, wherever it is seen, either in the flame of spirits of wine mixed with salt or in that great blaze at which we have been looking, is characteristic of sodium. Wherever you see that particular kind of light, you know that sodium must have been present in the body from which it came.
We have accordingly learned to recognize two substances, namely, strontium and sodium, by the different lights which they give out when burning. To these two metals we may add a third. Here is a strip of white metallic ribbon. It is called magnesium. It seems like a bit of tin at the first glance, but indeed it is a very different substance from tin; for, look, when I hold it in the spirit-lamp, the strip of metal immediately takes fire, and burns with a white light so dazzling that it pales the gas-flames to insignificance. There is no other substance which will, when kindled, give that particular kind of light which we see from magnesium. I can recommend this little experiment as quite suitable for trying at home; you can buy a bit of magnesium ribbon for a trifle at the opticians; it cannot explode or do any harm, nor will you get into any trouble with the authorities provided you hold it when burning over a tray or a newspaper, so as to prevent the white ashes from falling on the carpet.
There are, in nature, a number of simple bodies called [pg 327] elements. Every one of these, when ignited under suitable conditions, emits a light which belongs to it alone, and by which it can be distinguished from every other substance. I do not say that we can try the experiments in the simple way I have here indicated. Many of the materials will yield light which will require to be studied by much more elaborate artifices than those which have sufficed for us. But you will see that the method affords a means of finding out the actual substances present in the sun or in the stars. There is a practical difficulty in the fact that each of the heavenly bodies contains a number of different elements; so that in the light it sends us the hues arising from distinct substances are blended into one beam. The first thing to be done is to get some way of splitting up a beam of light, so as to discover the components of which it is made. You might have a skein of silks of different hues tangled together, and this would be like the sunbeam as we receive it in its unsorted condition. How shall we untangle the light from the sun or a star? I will show you by a simple experiment. Here is a beam from the electric light; beautifully white and bright, is it not? It looks so pure and simple, but yet that beam is composed of all sorts of colors mingled together, in such proportions as to form white light. I take a wedge-shaped piece of glass called a prism, and when I introduce it into the course of the beam, you see the transformation that has taken place (Fig. 4). Instead of the white light you have now all the colors of the rainbow—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, marked by their initial letters in the figure. These colors are very beautiful, but they are transient, for the [pg 328] moment we take away the prism they all unite again to form white light. You see what the prism has done; it has bent all the light in passing through it; but it is more effective in bending the blue than the red, and consequently the blue is carried away much further than the red. Such is the way in which we study the composition of a heavenly body. We take a beam of its light, we pass it through a prism, and immediately it is separated into its components; then we compare what we find with the lights given by the different elements, and thus we are enabled to discover the substances which exist in the distant object whose light we have examined. I do not mean to say that the method is a simple one; all I am endeavoring to show is a general outline of the way in which we have discovered the materials present in the stars. The instrument that is employed for this purpose is called the spectroscope. And perhaps you may remember that name by these lines, which I have heard from an astronomical friend:—"Twinkle, twinkle, little star, Now we find out what you are, When unto the midnight sky, We the spectroscope apply."
I am sure it will interest everybody to know that the elements which the stars contain are not altogether different from those of which the earth is made. It is true there may be substances in the stars of which we know nothing here; but it is certain that many of the most common elements on the earth are present in the most distant bodies. I shall only mention one, the metal iron. That useful substance has been found in some of the stars which lie at almost incalculable distances from the earth.The Nebulæ.
In drawing towards the close of these lectures I must say a few words about some dim and mysterious objects to which we have not yet alluded. They are what are called nebulæ, or little clouds; and in one sense they are justly called little, for each of them occupies but a very small spot in the sky as compared with that which would be filled by an ordinary cloud in our air. The nebulæ are, however, objects of the most stupendous proportions. Were our earth and thousands of millions of bodies quite as big all put together, they would not be nearly so great as one of these nebulæ. Astronomers reckon up the various nebulæ by thousands, but I must add that most of them are apparently faint and uninteresting. A nebula is sometimes liable to be mistaken for a comet. The comet is, as I have already explained, at once distinguished by the fact that it is moving and changing its appearance from hour to hour, while scores of years elapse without changes in the aspect or position of a nebula. The most powerful telescopes are employed in observing [pg 330] these faint objects. I take this opportunity of showing a picture of an instrument suitable for such observations. It is the great reflector of the Paris Observatory (Fig. 5).
There are such multitudes of nebulæ that I can only show a few of the more remarkable kinds. In Fig. 6 will be seen pictures of a curious object in the constellation of Lyra seen under different telescopic powers. This is a gigantic ring of luminous gas. To judge of the size of this ring let us suppose that a railway were laid across it, and the train you entered at one side was not to stop until it reached the other side, how long do you think this journey would require? I recollect some time ago a picture in Punch which showed a train about to start from London to Brighton, and the guard walking up and down announcing to the passengers the alarming fact that "this train stops nowhere." An old gentleman was seen [pg 331] vainly gesticulating out of the window and imploring to be let out ere the frightful journey was commenced. In the nebular railway the passengers would almost require such a warning.
Let the train start at a speed of a mile a minute, you would think, surely, that it must soon cross the ring. But the minutes pass, an hour has elapsed; so the distance must be sixty miles at all events. The hours creep on into days, the days advance into years, and still the train goes on. The years would lengthen out into centuries, and even when the train had been rushing on for a thousand years with an unabated speed of a mile a minute, the journey would certainly not have been completed. Nor do I venture to say what ages must elapse ere the terminus at the other side of the ring nebula would be reached.
A cluster of stars viewed in a small telescope will often seem like a nebula, for the rays of the stars become blended. A powerful telescope will, however, dispel the illusion and reveal the separate stars. It was, therefore, thought that all the nebulæ might be merely clusters so exceedingly remote that our mightiest instruments failed to resolve them into stars. But this is now known not to be the case. Many of these objects are really masses of glowing gas; such are, for instance, the ring nebulæ, of which I have just spoken, and the form of which I can simulate by a pretty experiment.
We take a large box with a round hole cut in one face, and a canvas back at the opposite side. I first fill this box with smoke, and there are different ways of doing so. Burning brown paper does not answer [pg 332] well, because the supply of smoke is too irregular and the paper itself is apt to blaze. A little bit of phosphorus set on fire yields copious smoke, but it would be apt to make people cough, and, besides, phosphorus is a dangerous thing to handle incautiously, and I do not want to suggest anything which might be productive of disaster if the experiment was repeated at home. A little wisp of hay, slightly damped and lighted, will safely yield a sufficient supply, and you need not have an elaborate box like this; any kind of old packing-case, or even a bandbox with a duster stretched across its open top and a round hole cut in the bottom, will answer capitally. While I have been speaking, my assistant has kindly filled this box with smoke, and in order to have a sufficient supply, and one which shall be as little disagreeable as possible, he has mixed together the fumes of hydrochloric acid and ammonia from two retorts shown in Fig. 7. A still simpler way of doing the same thing is to put a little common salt in a saucer and pour over it a little oil of vitriol; this is put into the box, and over the floor of the box common smelling-salts is to be scattered. You see there are dense volumes of white smoke escaping from every corner of the box. I uncover the opening and give a push to the canvas, and you see a beautiful ring flying across the room; another ring and another follows. If you were near [pg 333] enough to feel the ring, you would experience a little puff of wind; I can show this by blowing out a candle which is at the other end of the table. These rings are made by the air which goes into a sort of eddy as it passes through the hole. All the smoke does is to render the air visible. The smoke-ring is indeed quite elastic. If we send a second ring hurriedly after the first, we can produce a collision, and you see each of the two rings remains unbroken, though both are quivering from the effects of the blow. They are beautifully shown along the beam of the electric lamp, or, better still, along a sunbeam.
We can make many experiments with smoke-rings. Here, for instance, I take an empty box, so far as smoke is concerned, but air-rings can be driven forth from it, though you cannot see them, but you can feel them even at the other side of the room, and they will, as you see, blow out a candle. I can also shoot invisible air-rings at a column of smoke, and when the missile strikes the smoke it produces a little commotion and emerges on the other side, carrying with it enough of the smoke to render itself visible, while the solid black looking ring of air is seen in the interior. Still more striking is another way of producing these rings, for I charge this box with ammonia, and the rings from it you cannot see. There is a column of the vapor of hydrochloric acid, that also you cannot see; but when the visible ring enters the invisible column, then a sudden union takes place between the vapor of the ammonia and the vapor of the hydrochloric acid; the result is a solid white substance in extremely fine dust which renders the ring instantly visible.[pg 334]What the Nebulæ are made of.
There is a fundamental difference between the illumination of these little rings that I have shown you and the great rings in the heavens. I had to illuminate our smoke with the help of the electric light, for, unless I had done so, you would not have been able to see them. This white substance formed by the union of ammonia and hydrochloric acid has, of course, no more light of its own than a piece of chalk; it requires other light falling upon it to make it visible. Were the ring nebula in Lyra composed of this material, we could not see it. The sunlight which illuminates the planets might, of course, light up such an object as the ring, if it wrere comparatively near us; but Lyra is at such a stupendous distance that any light which the sun could send out there would be just as feeble as the light we receive from a fixed star. Should we be able to show our smoke-rings, for instance, if, instead of having the electric light, I merely cut a hole in the ceiling and allowed the feeble twinkle of a star in the Great Bear to shine through? In a similar way the sunbeams would be utterly powerless to effect any illumination of objects in these stellar distances. If the sun were to be extinguished altogether, the calamity would no doubt be a very dire one so far as we are concerned, but the effect on the other celestial bodies (moon and planets excepted) would be of the slightest possible description. All the stars of heaven would continue to shine as before. Not a point in one of the constellations wrould be altered, not a variation in the brightness, not a change in the hue of any star could [pg 335] be noticed. The thousands of nebulæ and clusters would be absolutely unaltered; in fact, the total extinction of the sun would be hardly remarked in the newspapers published in the Pleiades or in Orion. There might possibly be a little line somewhere in an odd corner to the effect "Mr. So-and-So, our well-known astronomer, has noticed that a tiny star, inconspicuous to the eye, and absolutely of no importance whatever, has now become invisible."
If, therefore, it be not the sun which lights up this nebula, where else can be the source of its illumination? There can be no other star in the neighborhood adequate to the purpose, for, of course, such an object would be brilliant to us if it were large enough and bright enough to impart sufficient illumination to the nebula. It would be absurd to say that you could see a man's face by the light of a candle while the candle itself was too faint or too distant to be visible. The actual facts are, of course, the other way; the candle might be visible, when it was impossible to discern the face which it lighted.
Hence we learn that the ring nebula must shine by some light of its own, and now we have to consider how it can be possible for such material to be self-luminous. The light of a nebula does not seem to be like flame; it can, perhaps, be better represented by the pretty electrical experiment with Geissler's tubes. These are glass vessels of various shapes, and they are all very nearly empty, as you will understand when I tell you the way in which they have been prepared. A little gas was allowed into each tube, and then almost all the gas was taken out again, so that only a mere [pg 336] trace was left. I pass a current of electricity through these tubes, and now you see they are glowing with beautiful colors. The different gases give out lights of different hues, and the optician has exerted his skill so as to make the effect as beautiful as possible. The electricity, in passing through these tubes, heats the gas which they contain, and makes it glow; and just as this gas can, when heated sufficiently, give out light, so does the great nebula, which is a mass of gas poised in space, become visible in virtue of the heat which it contains.
We are not left quite in doubt as to the constitution of these gaseous nebulæ, for we can submit their light to the prism in the way I explained when we were speaking of the stars. Distant though that ring in Lyra may be, it is interesting to learn that the ingredients from which it is made are not entirely different from substances we know on our earth. The water in this glass, and every drop of water, is formed by the union of two gases, of which one is hydrogen. This is an extremely light material, as you see by a little balloon which ascends so prettily when filled with it. Hydrogen also burns very readily, though the flame is almost invisible. When I blow a jet of oxygen through the hydrogen, I produce a little flame with a very intense heat. For instance, I hold a steel pen in the flame, and it glows and sputters, and falls down in white-hot drops. It is needless to say that, as a constituent of water, hydrogen is one of the most important elements on this earth. It is, therefore, of interest to learn that hydrogen in some form or other is a constituent of the most distant objects in space that the telescope has revealed.
Of late years we have learned a great deal about nebulæ, by the help which photography has given to us. Look at this group of stars which constitutes that beautiful little configuration known as the Pleiades (Fig. 8). It looks like a miniature representation of the Great Bear; in fact, it would be far more appropriate to call the Pleiades the Little Bear than to apply that title to another quite different constellation, as has unfortunately been done. The Pleiades form a group containing six or seven stars visible to the ordinary eye, though persons endowed with exceptionally good vision can usually see a few more. In an opera-glass the Pleiades becomes a beautiful spectacle, though in a large telescope the stars appear too far apart to make a really effective cluster. When Mr. Roberts took a photograph of the Pleiades he placed a highly sensitive plate in his telescope, and on that plate the Pleiades engraved their picture with their own light. He left the plate exposed for hours, and on developing it not only were the stars seen, but there were also patches of faint light due to the presence of nebulæ. It could not be said that the objects on the plate were fallacious, for another photograph was taken, when the same appearances were reproduced.[pg 338]
When we look at that pretty group of stars which has attracted admiration during all time, we are to think that some of those stars are merely the bright points in a vast nebula, invisible to our unaided eyes or even to our mighty telescopes, though capable of recording its trace on the photographic plate. Does not this give us a greatly increased notion of the extent of the universe, when we reflect that by photography we are enabled to see much which the mightiest of telescopes had previously failed to disclose?
Of all the nebulæ, numbering some thousands, there is but a single one which can be seen without a telescope. It is in the constellation of Andromeda, and on a clear dark night can just be seen with the unaided eye as a faint stain of light on the sky. It has happened before now that persons noticing this nebula for the first time have thought they had discovered a comet. I would like you to try and find out this object for yourselves.
If you look at it with an opera-glass it appears to be distinctly elongated. You can see more of its structure when you view it in larger instruments, but its nature was never made clear until some beautiful photographs were taken by Mr. Roberts .Unfortunately, the nebula in Andromeda has not been placed in the best position for its portrait from our point of view. It seems as if it were a rather flat-shaped object, turned nearly edgewise towards us. To look at the pattern on a plate, you would naturally hold the plate so as to be able to look at it squarely. The pattern would not be seen well if the plate were so tilted that its edge was turned towards you. That seems to be nearly the way [pg 339] in which we are forced to view the nebula in Andromeda. We can trace in the photograph some divisions extending entirely round the nebula, showing that it seems to be formed of a series of rings; and there are some outlying portions which form part of the same system. Truly this is a marvellous object. It is impossible for us to form any conception of the true dimensions of this gigantic nebula; it is so far off that we have never yet been able to determine its distance. Indeed, I may take this opportunity of remarking that no astronomer has yet succeeded in ascertaining the distance of any nebula. Everything, however, points to the conclusion that they are at least as far as the stars.
It is almost impossible to apply the methods which we use in finding the distance of a star to the discovery of the distance of the nebulæ. These flimsy bodies are usually too illdefined to admit of being measured with the precision and delicacy required for the determination of distance. The measurements necessary for this purpose can only be made from one star-like point to another similar point. If we could choose a star in [pg 340] the nebula and determine its distance, then of course, we have the distance of the nebula itself; but the difficulty is that we have, in general, no means of knowing whether the star does actually lie in the object. It may, for anything we can tell, lie billions of miles nearer to us, or billions of miles further off, and by merely happening to lie in the line of sight, appear to glimmer in the nebula itself.
If we have any assurance that the star is surrounded by a mass of this glowing vapor, then it may be possible to measure that nebula's distance. It will occasionally happen that grounds can be found for believing that a star which appears to be in the glowing gas does veritably lie therein, and is not merely seen in the same direction. There are hundreds of stars visible in a good drawing or a good photograph of the famous object in Andromeda, and doubtless large numbers of these are merely stars which happen to lie in the same line of sight. The peculiar circumstances attending the history of one star seem, however, to warrant us in making the assumption that it was certainly in the nebula. The history of this star is a remarkable one. It suddenly kindled from invisibility into brilliancy. How is a change so rapid in the lustre of a star to be accounted for? In a few days its brightness had undergone an extraordinary increase. Of course, this does not tell us for certain that the star lay in the glowing gas; but the most rational explanation that I have heard offered of this occurrence is that due, I believe, to my friend Mr. Monck. He has suggested that the sudden outbreak in brilliancy might be accounted for on the same principles as those by which we explain the [pg 341] ignition of meteors in our atmosphere. If a dark star, moving along with terrific speed through space, were suddenly to plunge into a dense region of the nebula, heat and light must be evolved in sufficient abundance to transform the star into a brilliant object. If, therefore, we knew the distance of this star at the time it was in Andromeda, we should, of course, learn the distance of that interesting object. This has been attempted, and it has thus been proved that the Great Nebula must be very much further from us than is that star of whose distance I attempted some time ago to give you a notion.
We thus realize the enormous size of the Great Nebula. It appears that if, on a map of this object, we were to lay down, accurately to scale, a map of the solar system, putting the sun in the centre and all the planets around their true proportions out to the boundary traced by Neptune, this area, vast though it is, would be a mere speck on the drawing of the object. Our system would have to be enormously bigger before it sufficed to cover anything like the area of the sky included in one of these great objects. Here is a sketch of a nebula, Fig. 10, and near I have marked a dot, which is to indicate our solar system. We may feel confident that the Great Nebula is at the very least as mighty as this proportion would indicate.
Rain And Snow
(From The Forms of Water.) By
At the equator, and within certain limits north and south of it, the sun at certain periods of the year is directly overhead at noon. These limits are called the Tropics of Cancer and of Capricorn. Upon the belt comprised between these two circles the sun's rays fall with their mightiest power; for here they shoot directly downwards, and heat both earth and sea more than when they strike slantingly.
When the vertical sunbeams strike the land they heat it, and the air in contact with the hot soil becomes heated in turn. But when heated the air expands, and when it expands it becomes lighter. This lighter air rises, like wood plunged into water, through the heavier air overhead.
When the sunbeams fall upon the sea the water is warmed, though not so much as the land. The warmed water expands, becomes thereby lighter, and therefore continues to float upon the top. This upper layer of [pg 343] water warms to some extent the air in contact with it, but it also sends up a quantity of aqueous vapor, which being far lighter than air, helps the latter to rise. Thus both from the land and from the sea we have ascending currents established by the action of the sun.
When they reach a certain elevation in the atmosphere, these currents divide and flow, part towards the north and part towards the south; while from the north and the south a flow of heavier and colder air sets in to supply the place of the ascending warm air.
Incessant circulation is thus established in the atmosphere. The equatorial air and vapor flow above towards the north and south poles, while the polar air flows below towards the equator. The two currents of air thus established are called the upper and the lower trade winds.
But before the air returns from the poles great changes have occurred. For the air as it quitted the equatorial regions was laden with aqueous vapor, which could not subsist in the cold polar regions. It is there precipitated, falling sometimes as rain, or more commonly as snow. The land near the pole is covered with this snow, which gives birth to vast glaciers.
It is necessary that you should have a perfectly clear view of this process, for great mistakes have been made regarding the manner in which glaciers are related to the heat of the sun.
It was supposed that if the sun's heat were diminished, greater glaciers than those now existing would [pg 344] be produced. But the lessening of the sun's heat would infallibly diminish the quantity of aqueous vapor, and thus cut off the glaciers at their source. A brief illustration will complete your knowledge here.
In the process of ordinary distillation, the liquid to be distilled is heated and converted into vapor in one vessel, and chilled and reconverted into liquid in another. What has just been stated renders it plain that the earth and its atmosphere constitute a vast distilling apparatus in which the equatorial ocean plays the part of the boiler, and the chill regions of the poles the part of the condenser. In this process of distillation heat plays quite as necessary a part as cold, and before Bishop Heber could speak of "Greenland's icy mountains," the equatorial ocean had to be warmed by the sun. We shall have more to say upon this question afterwards.
The heating of the tropical air by the sun is indirect. The solar beams have scarcely any power to heat the air through which they pass; but they heat the land and ocean, and these communicate their heat to the air in contact with them. The air and vapor start upwards charged with the heat thus communicated.Tropical Rains.
But long before the air and vapor from the equator reach the poles, precipitation occurs. Wherever a humid warm wind mixes with a cold dry one, rain falls. Indeed the heaviest rains occur at those places where the sun is vertically overhead. We must enquire a little more closely into their origin.[pg 345]
Fill a bladder about two-thirds full of air at the sea level, and take it to the summit of Mount Blanc. As you ascend, the bladder becomes more and more distended; at the top of the mountain it is fully distended, and has evidently to bear a pressure from within. Returning to the sea level you find that the tightness disappears, the bladder finally appearing as flaccid as at first.
The reason is plain. At the sea level the air within the bladder has to bear the pressure of the whole atmosphere, being thereby squeezed into a comparatively small volume. In ascending the mountain, you leave more and more of the atmosphere behind; the pressure becomes less and less, and by its expansive force the air within the bladder swells as the outside pressure is diminished. At the top of the mountain the expansion is quite sufficient to render the bladder tight, the pressure within being then actually greater than the pressure without. By means of an air-pump we can show the expansion of a balloon partly filled with air, when the external pressure has been in part removed.
But why do I dwell upon this? Simply to make plain to you that the unconfined air, heated at the earth's surface, and ascending by its lightness, must expand more and more the higher it rises in the atmosphere.
And now I have to introduce to you a new fact, towards the statement of which I have been working for some time. It is this: The ascending air is chilled by its expansion. Indeed this chilling is one source of the coldness of the higher atmospheric regions. And [pg 346] now fix your eye upon those mixed currents of air and aqueous vapor which rise from the warm tropical ocean. They start with plenty of heat to preserve the vapor as vapor; but as they rise they come into regions already chilled, and they are still further chilled by their own expansion. The consequence might be foreseen. The load of vapor is in great part precipitated, dense clouds are formed, their particles coalesce to rain-drops, which descend daily in gushes so profuse that the word "torrential" is used to express the copiousness of the rainfall. I could show you this chilling by expansion, and also the consequent precipitation of clouds.
Thus long before the air from the equator reaches the poles its vapor is in great part removed from it, having redescended to the earth as rain. Still a good quantity of the vapor is carried forward, which yields hail, rain, and snow in northern and southern lands.
To complete our view of the process of atmospheric precipitation we must take into account the action of mountains. Imagine a south-west wind blowing across the Atlantic towards Ireland. In its passage it charges itself with aqueous vapor. In the south of Ireland it encounters the mountains of Kerry: the highest of these is Magillicuddy's Reeks, near Killarney. Now the lowest stratum of this Atlantic wind is that which is most fully charged with vapor. When it encounters the base of the Kerry Mountains it is tilted up and flows bodily over them. Its load of vapor is therefore carried to a height, it expands on reaching the height, [pg 347] it is chilled in consequence of the expansion, and comes down in copious showers of rain. From this, in fact, arises the luxuriant vegetation of Killarney; to this, indeed, the lakes owe their water supply. The cold crests of the mountains also aid in the work of condensation.
Note the consequence. There is a town called Cahirciveen to the south-west of Magillicuddy's Reeks, at which observations of the rainfall have been made, and a good distance farther to the north-east, right in the course of the south-west wind there is another town, called Portarlington, at which observations of rainfall have also been made. But before the wind reaches the latter station it has passed over the mountains of Kerry and left a great portion of its moisture behind it. What is the result? At Cahirciveen, as shown by Dr. Lloyd, the rainfall amounts to fifty-nine inches in a year, while at Portarlington it is only twenty-one inches.
Again, you may sometimes descend from the Alps when the fall of rain and snow is heavy and incessant, into Italy, and find the sky over the plains of Lombardy blue and cloudless, the wind at the same time blowing over the plain towards the Alps. Below the wind is hot enough to keep its vapor in a perfectly transparent state; but it meets the mountains, is tilted up, expanded, and chilled. The cold of the higher summits also helps the chill. The consequence is that the vapor is precipitated as rain or snow, thus producing bad weather upon the heights, while the plains below, flooded with the same air, enjoy the aspect of the unclouded summer sun. Clouds blowing from the [pg 348] Alps are also sometimes dissolved over the plains of Lombardy.
In connection with the formation of clouds by mountains, one particularly instructive effect may be here noticed. You frequently see a streamer of cloud many hundred yards in length drawn out from an Alpine peak. Its steadiness appears perfect, though a strong wind may be blowing at the same time over the mountain head. Why is the cloud not blown away? It is blown away; its permanence is only apparent. At one end it is incessantly dissolved; at the other end it is incessantly renewed: supply and consumption being thus equalized, the cloud appears as changeless as the mountain to which it seems to cling. When the red sun of the evening shines upon these cloud-streamers they resemble vast torches with their flames blown through the air.Architecture of Snow.
We now resemble persons who have climbed a difficult peak, and thereby earned the enjoyment of a wide prospect. Having made ourselves masters of the conditions necessary to the production of mountain snow, we are able to take a comprehensive and intelligent view of the phenomena of glaciers.
A few words are still necessary as to the formation of snow. The molecules and atoms of all substances, when allowed free play, build themselves into definite [pg 349] and, for the most part, beautiful forms called crystals. Iron, copper, gold, silver, lead, sulphur, when melted and permitted to cool gradually, all show this crystallizing power. The metal bismuth shows it in a particularly striking manner, and when properly fused and solidified, selfbuilt crystals of great size and beauty are formed of this metal.
If you dissolve salt-petre in water, and allow the solution to evaporate slowly, you may obtain large crystals, for no portion of the salt is converted into vapor. The water of our atmosphere is fresh though it is derived from the salt sea. Sugar dissolved in water, and permitted to evaporate, yields crystals of sugar-candy. Alum readily crystallizes in the same way. Flints dissolved, as they sometimes are in nature, and permitted to crystallize, yield the prisms and pyramids of rock crystal. Chalk dissolved and crystallized yields Iceland spar. The diamond is [pg 350] crystallized carbon. All our precious stones, the ruby, sapphire, beryl, topaz, emerald, are all examples of this crystallizing power.
You have heard of the force of gravitation, and you know that it consists of an attraction of every particle of matter for every other particle. You know that planets and moons are held in their orbits by this attraction. But gravitation is a very simple affair compared to the force, or rather forces, of crystallization. For here the ultimate particles of matter, inconceivably small as they are, show themselves possessed of attractive and repellent poles, by the mutual action of which the shape and structure of the crystal are determined. In the solid condition the attracting poles are rigidly locked together; but if sufficient heat be applied the bond of union is dissolved, and in the state of fusion the poles are pushed so far asunder as to be practically out of each other's range. The natural tendency of the molecules to build themselves together is thus neutralized.
This is the case with water, which as a liquid is to all appearance formless. When sufficiently cooled the molecules are brought within the play of the crystallizing force, and they then arrange themselves in forms of indescribable beauty. When snow is produced in [pg 351] calm air, the icy particles build themselves into beautiful stellar shapes, each star possessing six rays. There is no deviation from this type, though in other respects the appearances of the snow-stars are infinitely various. In the polar regions these exquisite forms were observed by Dr. Scoresby, who gave numerous drawings of them. I have observed them in mid-winter filling the air, and loading the slopes of the Alps. But in England they are also to be seen, and no words of mine could convey so vivid an impression of their beauty as the annexed drawings of a few of them, executed at Greenwich by Mr. Glaisher.
It is worth pausing to think what wonderful work is going on in the atmosphere during the formation and descent of every snow-shower; what building power is brought into play! and how imperfect seem the productions of human minds and hands when compared with those formed by the blind forces of nature!
But who ventures to call the forces of nature blind? In reality, when we speak thus we are describing our own condition. The blindness is ours; and what we really ought to say, and to confess, is that our powers are absolutely unable to comprehend either the origin or the end of the operations of nature.
But while we thus acknowledge our limits, there is [pg 352] also reason for wonder at the extent to which science has mastered the system of nature. From age to age, and from generation to generation, fact has been added to fact, and law to law, the true method and order of the Universe being thereby more and more revealed. In doing this science has encountered and overthrown various forms of superstition and deceit, of credulity and imposture. But the world continually produces weak persons and wicked persons; and as long as they continue to exist side by side, as they do in this our day, very debasing beliefs will also continue to infest the world.
"What did I mean when, a few moments ago I spoke of attracting and repellent poles?" Let me try to answer this question. You know that astronomers and geographers speak of the earth's poles, and you have also heard of magnetic poles, the poles of a magnet being the points at which the attraction and repulsion of the magnet are as it were concentrated.
Every magnet possesses two such poles; and if iron filings be scattered over a magnet, each particle becomes also endowed with two poles. Suppose such particles devoid of weight and floating in our atmosphere, what must occur when they come near each other? Manifestly the repellent poles will retreat from each other, while the attractive poles will approach and finally lock themselves together. And supposing the particles, instead of a single pair, to possess several pairs of poles arranged at definite points over their surfaces; you can then picture them, in obedience to [pg 353] their mutual attractions and repulsions, building themselves together to form masses of definite shape and structure.
Imagine the molecules of water in calm cold air to be gifted with poles of this description, which compel the particles to lay themselves together in a definite order, and you have before your mind's eye the unseen architecture which finally produces the visible and beautiful crystals of the snow. Thus our first notions and conceptions of poles are obtained from the sight of our eyes in looking at the effects of magnetism; and we then transfer these notions and conceptions to particles which no eye has ever seen. The power by which we thus picture to ourselves effects beyond the range of the senses is what philosophers call the Imagination, and in the effort of the mind to seize upon the unseen architecture of crystals, we have an example of the "scientific use" of this faculty. Without imagination we might have critical power, but not creative power in science.Architecture of Lake Ice.
We have thus made ourselves acquainted with the beautiful snow-flowers selfconstructed by the molecules of water in calm, cold air. Do the molecules show this architectural power when ordinary water is frozen? What, for example, is the structure of the ice over which we skate in winter? Quite as wonderful as the flowers of the snow. The observation is rare, if not new, but I have seen in water slowly freezing six-rayed icestars formed, and floating free on the surface. A six-rayed star, moreover, is typical of the construction [pg 354] of all our lake ice. It is built up of such forms wonderfully interlaced.
Take a slab of lake ice and place it in the path of a concentrated sunbeam. Watch the track of the beam through the ice. Part of the beam is stopped, part of it goes through; the former produces internal liquefaction, the latter has no effect whatever upon the ice. But the liquefaction is not uniformly diffused. From separate spots of the ice little shining points are seen to sparkle forth. Every one of those points is surrounded by a beautiful liquid flower with six petals.
Ice and water are so optically alike that unless the light fall properly upon these flowers you cannot see them. But what is the central spot? A vacuum. Ice swims on water because, bulk for bulk, it is lighter than water; so that when ice is melted it shrinks in size. Can the liquid flowers then occupy the whole space of the ice melted? Plainly no. A little empty space is formed with the flowers, and this space, or rather its surface, shines in the sun with the lustre of burnished silver.
In all cases the flowers are formed parallel to the surface of freezing. They are formed when the sun shines upon the ice of every lake; sometimes in myriads, and so small as to require a magnifying glass to see them. They are always attainable, but their beauty is often marred by internal defects of the ice. Every one portion of the same piece of ice may show them exquisitely, while a second portion shows them imperfectly.Annexed is a very imperfect sketch of these beautiful figures. [pg 355]
Here we have a reversal of the process of crystallization. The searching solar beam is delicate enough to take the molecules down without deranging the order of their architecture. Try the experiment for yourself with a pocket-lens on a sunny day. You will not find the flowers confused; they all lie parallel to the surface of freezing. In this exquisite way every bit of the ice over which our skaters glide in winter is put together.
I said that a portion of the sunbeam was stopped by the ice and liquefied it. What is this portion? The dark heat of the sun. The great body of the light waves and even a portion of the dark ones, pass through the ice without losing any of their heating power. When properly concentrated on combustible bodies, even after having passed through the ice, their burning power becomes manifest.
And the ice itself may be employed to concentrate them. With an ice-lens in the polar regions Dr. Scoresby has often concentrated the sun's rays so as to make them burn wood, fire gunpowder, and melt lead; thus proving that the heating power is retained [pg 356] by the rays, even after they have passed through so cold a substance.By rendering the rays of the electric lamp parallel, and then sending them through a lens of ice, we obtain all the effects which Dr. Scoresby obtained with the rays of the sun.
The Organic World
(From The Elements of Science.) By
ST. GEORGE MIVART F.R.S.
The number of all the various kinds of living creatures is so enormous that it would be impossible to study them profitably, were they not classified in an orderly manner. Therefore the whole mass has been divided, in the first place, into two supreme groups, fancifully termed kingdoms—the "animal kingdom" and the "vegetal kingdom." Each of these is subdivided into an orderly series of subordinate groups, successively contained one a within the other, and named sub-kingdoms, classes, orders, families, genera and species. The lowest group but one is the "genus," which contains one or more different kinds termed "species," as e.g., the species "wood anemone" and the species "blue titmouse." The lowest group of all—a species—may be said to consist of individuals which differ from each other only by trifling characters, such as characters due to difference of sex, while their peculiar organization is faithfully reproduced by generation as a whole, though small individual differences exist in all cases.
The vegetal, or vegetable, kingdom, consists of the great mass of flowering plants, many of which, however, have such inconspicuous flowers that they are [pg 358] mistakenly regarded as flowerless, as is often the case with the grasses, the pines, and the yews. Another mass, or sub-kingdom, of plants consists of the really flowerless plants, such as the ferns, horsetails (Fig. 1), lycopods, and mosses. Sea and fresh-water weeds (algæ), and mushrooms, or "moulds," of all kinds (fungi), amongst which are the now famous "bacteria," constitute a third and lowest set of plants.
The animal kingdom consists, first, of a sub-kingdom of animals which possess a spinal column, or backbone, and which are known as vertebrate animals. Such are all beasts, birds, reptiles, and fishes. There are also a variety of remotely allied marine organisms known as tunicates, sea-squirts, or ascidians (Fig. 2). There is, further, an immense group of arthropods, consisting of all insects, crab-like creatures, hundred-legs and their allies, with spiders, scorpions, tics and mites. We have also the sub-kingdom of shell-fish or molluscs, [pg 359] including cuttle-fishes, snails, whelks, limpets, the oyster, and a multitude of allied forms. A multitudinous sub-kingdom of worms also exists, as well as another of star-fishes and their congeners. There is yet another of zoophytes, or polyps, and another of sponges, and, finally, we have a sub-kingdom of minute creatures, or animalculæ, of very varied forms, which may make up the sub-kingdom of Protozoa, consisting of animals which are mostly unicellular.
Multitudinous and varied as are the creatures which compose this immense organic world, they nevertheless exhibit a very remarkable uniformity of composition in their essential structure. Every living creature from a man to a mushroom, or even to the smallest animalcule or unicellular plant is always partly fluid, but never entirely so. Every living creature also consists in part (and that part is the most active living part) of a soft, viscid, transparent, colorless substance, termed protoplasm, which can be resolved into the four elements, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon. Besides these four elements, living organisms commonly contain sulphur, phosphorus, chlorine, potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and iron.
In the fact that living creatures always consist of the four elements, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon, we have a fundamental character whereby the organic and inorganic (or non-living) worlds are to be [pg 360] distinguished, for as we have seen, inorganic bodies, instead of being thus uniformly constituted, may consist of the most diverse elements and sometimes of but two or even of only one.
Again, many minerals, such as crystals, are bounded by plain surfaces, and, with very few exceptions (spathic and hematite iron and dolomite are such exceptions) none are bounded by curved lines and surfaces, while living organisms are bounded by such lines and surfaces.
Yet, again, if a crystal be cut through, its internal structure will be seen to be similar throughout. But if the body of any living creature be divided, it will, at the very least, be seen to consist of a variety of minute distinct particles, called "granules," variously distributed throughout its interior.
All organisms consist either—as do the simplest, mostly microscopic, plants and animals—of a single minute mass of protoplasm, or of a few, or of many, or of an enormous aggregation of such before-mentioned particles, each of which is one of those bodies named a "cell" (Fig. 3). Cells may, or may not, be enclosed in an investing coat or "cell-wall." Every cell generally contains within it a denser, normally spheroidal, body known as the nucleus.
Now protoplasm is a very unstable substance—as we have seen many substances are whereof nitrogen is a component part—and it possesses active properties which are not present in the non-living, or inorganic world. In the latter, differences of temperature will produce motion in the shape of "currents," as we have seen with respect to masses of air and water. But in a portion [pg 361] of protoplasm, an internal circulation of currents in definite lines will establish itself from other causes.
Inorganic bodies, as we have seen, will expand with heat, as they may also do from imbibing moisture; but living protoplasm has an apparently spontaneous power of contraction and expansion under certain external conditions which do not occasion such movements in inorganic matter.
Under favoring conditions, protoplasm has a power of performing chemical changes, which result in producing heat far more gently and continuously than it is produced by the combustion of inorganic bodies. Thus it is that the heat is produced which makes its presence evident to us in what we call "warm-blooded animals," the most warm-blooded of all being birds.
Protoplasm has also the wonderful power of transforming certain adjacent substances into material like itself—into its own substance—and so, in a sense, creating a new material. Thus it is that organisms have the power to nourish themselves and grow. An animal would vainly swallow the most nourishing food if the ultimate, protoplasmic particles of its body had not this power of "transforming" suitable [pg 362] substances brought near them in ways to be hereinafter noticed.
Without that, no organism could ever "grow." The growth of organisms is utterly different from the increase in size of inorganic bodies. Crystals, as we have seen, grow merely by external increment; but organisms grow by an increment which takes place in the very innermost substance of the tissues which compose their bodies, and the innermost substance of the cells which compose such tissues; this peculiar form of growth is termed intussusception.
Protoplasm, after thus augmenting its mass, has a further power of spontaneous division, whereby the mass of the entire organism whereof such protoplasm forms a part, is augmented and so growth is brought about.
The small particles of protoplasm which constitute "cells" are far indeed from being structureless. Besides the nucleus already mentioned there is a delicate network of threads of a substance called chromatin within it, and another network permeating the fluid of the cell substance, which invest the nucleus often with further complications. These networks generally perform (or undergo) a most complex series of changes every time a cell spontaneously divides. In certain cases, however, it appears that the nucleus divides into two in a more simple fashion, the rest of the cell contents subsequently dividing—each half enclosing one part of the previously divided nucleus. It is by a continued process of cell division that the complex structures of the most complex organisms is brought about.The division of a cell, or particle of protoplasm, is [pg 363] indeed a necessary consequence of its complete nutrition.
For new material can only be absorbed by its surface. But as the cell grows, the proportion borne by its surface to its mass, continually decreases; therefore this surface must soon be too small to take in nourishment enough, and the particle, or cell, must therefore either die or divide. By dividing, its parts can continue the nutritive process till their surface, in turn, becomes insufficient, when they must divide again, and so on. Thus the term "feeding" has two senses. "To feed a horse," ordinarily means to give it a certain quantity of hay, oats or what not; and such indeed is one kind of feeding. But obviously, if the nourishment so taken could not get from the stomach and intestines into the ultimate particles and cells of the horse's body, the horse could not be nourished, and still less could it grow. It is this latter process, called assimilation, which is the real and essential process of feeding, to which the process ordinarily so called is but introductory.
Protoplasm has also the power of forming and ejecting from its own substance, other substances which it has made, but which are of a different nature to its own. This function, as before said, is termed secretion; and we know the liver secretes bile, and that the cow's udder secretes milk.
Here again we have an external and an internal process. The milk is drawn forth from a receptacle, the udder, into which it finds its way, and so, in a superficial sense, it may be called an organ of secretion. Nevertheless the true internal secretion takes place in [pg 364] the innermost substance of the cells or particles of protoplasm, of the milk-land, which particles really form that liquid
But every living creature consists at first entirely of a particle of protoplasm. Therefore every other kind of substance which may be found in every kind of plant or animal, must have been formed through it, and be, in fact, a secretion from protoplasm. Such is the rosy cheek of an apple, or of a maiden, the luscious juice of the peach, the produce of the castor-oil plant, the baleen that lines the whale's enormous jaws, as well as that softest product, the fur of the chinchilla. Indeed, every particle of protoplasm requires, in order that it may live, a continuous process of exchange. It needs to be continuously first built up by food, and then broken down by discharging what is no longer needful for its healthy existence. Thus the life of every organism is a life of almost incessant change, not only in its being as a whole, but in that of all its protoplasmic particles also.
Prominent among such processes is that of an interchange of gases between the living being and its environment. This process consists in an absorption of oxygen and a givingout of carbonic acid, which exchange is termed respiration.[pg 365]
Lastly, protoplasm has a power of motion when appropriately acted on. It will then contract or expand its shape by alternate protrusions and retractions of parts of its substance. These movements are termed amoebiform, because they quite resemble the movements of a small animalcule which is named amoeba. (See Fig. 4.)
Such is the ultimate structure, and such are the fundamental activities or functions of living organisms, as far as they can here be described, from the lowest animalcule and unicellular plant, up to the most complex organisms and the body of man himself.
Inhabitants Of My Pool
(From Magic Glasses.) By
ARABELLA B. BUCKLEY.
The pool lies in a deep hollow among a group of rocks and boulders, close to the entrance of the cove, which can only be entered at low water; it does not measure more than two feet across, so that you can step over it, if you take care not to slip on the masses of green and brown seaweed growing over the rocks on its sides, as I have done many a time when collecting specimens for our salt-water aquarium. I find now the only way is to lie flat down on the rock, so that my hands and eyes are free to observe and handle, and then, bringing my eye down to the edge of the pool, to lift the seaweeds and let the sunlight enter into the chinks and crannies. In this way I can catch sight of many a small being either on the seaweed or the rocky ledges, and even creatures transparent as glass become visible by the thin outline gleaming in the sunlight. Then I pluck a piece of seaweed, or chip off a fragment of rock with a sharp-edged collecting knife, bringing away the specimen uninjured upon it, and place it carefully in its own separate bottle to be carried home alive and well.
Now though this little pool and I are old friends, I [pg 367] find new treasures in it almost every time I go, for it is almost as full of living things as the heavens are of stars, and the tide as it comes and goes brings many a mother there to find a safe home for her little ones, and many a waif and stray to seek shelter from the troublous life of the open ocean.
You will perhaps find it difficult to believe that in this rock-bound basin there can be millions of living creatures hidden away among the fine feathery weeds; yet so it is. Not that they are always the same. At one time it may be the home of myriads of infant crabs, not an eighth of an inch long, another of baby sea-urchins only visible to the naked eye as minute spots in the water, at another of young jelly-fish growing on their tiny stalks, and splitting off one by one as transparent bells to float away with the rising tide. Or it may be that the whelk has chosen this quiet nook to deposit her leathery eggs; or young barnacles, periwinkles, and limpets are growing up among the green and brown tangles, while the far-sailing velella and the stay-at-home sea-squirts, together with a variety of other sea-animals, find a nursery and shelter in their youth in this quiet harbor of rest.
And besides these casual visitors there are numberless creatures which have lived and multiplied there, ever since I first visited the pool. Tender red, olive-colored, and green seaweeds, stony corallines, and acorn-barnacles lining the floor, sea-anemones clinging to the sides, sponges tiny and many-colored hiding under the ledges, and limpets and mussels wedged in the cracks. These can be easily seen with the naked eye, but they are not the most numerous inhabitants; for these [pg 368] we must search with a magnifying glass, which will reveal to us wonderful fairy-forms, delicate crystal vases with tiny creatures in them whose transparent lashes make whirlpools in the water, living crystal bells so tiny that whole branches of them look only like a fringe of hair, jelly globes rising and falling in the water, patches of living jelly clinging to the rocky sides of the pool, and a hundred other forms, some so minute that you must examine the fine sand in which they lie under a powerful microscope before you can even guess that they are there.
So it has proved a rich hunting-ground, where summer and winter, spring and autumn, I find some form to put under my magic glass. There I can watch it for weeks growing and multiplying under my care; moved only from the aquarium, where I keep it supplied with healthy sea-water, to the tiny[pg 369] transparent trough in which I place it for a few hours to see the changes it has undergone. I could tell you endless tales of transformations in these tiny lives, but I want to-day to show you a few of my friends, most of which I brought yesterday fresh from the pool, and have prepared for you to examine.
Let us begin with seaweeds. I have said that there are three leading colors in my pool— green, olive, and red—and these tints mark roughly three kinds of weed, though they occur in an endless variety of shapes. Here is a piece of the beautiful pale green seaweed, called the Laver or Sea-Lettuce, Ulva Linza [Note: The slice given in Fig. 2 is from a broader-leaved form, U. lactuca, because this species, being composed of only one layer of cells, is better seen. Ulva Linza is composed of two layers of cells.] which grows in long ribbons in a sunny nook in the water. I have placed under the first microscope a piece of this weed which is just sending out young seaweeds in the shape of tiny cells, with lashes very like those we saw coming from the moss-flower, and I have pressed them in the position in which they would naturally leave the plant. You will also see on this side several cells in which these tiny spores are forming, ready to burst out and swim; for this green weed is merely a collection of cells, like the single-celled plants on land. Each cell [pg 370] can work as a separate plant; it feeds, grows, and can send out its own young spores.
This deep olive-green feathery weed of which a piece is magnified under the next microscope is very different. It is a higher plant, and works harder for its living, using the darker rays of sunlight which penetrate into shady parts of the pool. So it comes to pass that its cells divide the work. Those of the feathery threads make the food, while others, growing on short stalks on the shafts of the feather, make and send out the young spores.
Lastly, the lovely red threadlike weeds, such as this Polysiphonia urceolata carry actual urns on their stems like those of mosses. In fact, the history of these urns , is much the same in the two classes of plants, only that instead of the urn being pushed up on a thin stalk as in the moss, it remains on the seaweed close down to the stem, when it grows out of the plant-egg, and the tiny plant is shut in till the spores are ready to swim out.
The stony corallines (4, Figs. 1 and 3), which build so much carbonate of lime into their stems, are near relations of the red seaweeds. There are plenty of them in my pool. Some of them, of a deep purple color, grow upright in stiff groups about three or four [pg 371] inches high; and others, which form crusts over the stones and weeds, are a pale rose color; but both kinds, when the plant dies, leaving the stony skeleton are a pure white, and used to be mistaken for corals. They belong to the same order of plants as the red weeds, which all live in shady nooks in the pools, and are the highest of their race.
My pool is full of different forms of these four weeds. The green ribbons float on the surface rooted to the sides of the pool, and, as the sun shines upon it, the glittering bubbles rising from them show that they are working up food out of the air in the water, and giving off oxygen. The brown weeds lie chiefly under the shelves of rocks, for they can manage with less sunlight, and use the darker rays which pass by the green weeds; and last of all, the red weeds and corallines, small and delicate in form, line the bottom of the pool in its darkest nooks.
And now if I hand round two specimens,—one a coralline, and the other something you do not yet know,—I am sure you will say at first sight that they belong to the same family, and, in fact, if you buy at the seaside a group of seaweeds gummed on paper, you will most likely get both these among them. Yet the truth is; that while the coralline (1, Fig. 4) is a plant, [pg 372] the other specimen (2), which is called Sertularia filicula, is an animal.
This special sertularian grows up right in my pool on stones or often on seaweeds, but I have here (Fig. 5) another and much smaller one which lives literally in millions hanging its cups downwards. I find it not only under the narrow ledges of the pool sheltered by the seaweed, but forming a fringe along all the rocks on each side of the cove near to lowwater mark, and for a long time I passed it by thinking it was of no interest. But I have long since given up thinking this of anything, especially in my pool, for my magic glass has taught me that there is not even a living speck which does not open out into something marvellous and beautiful. So I chipped off a small piece of rock and brought the fringe home, and found, when I hung it up in clear sea-water as I have done over this glass trough (Fig. 5) and looked at it through the lens, that each thread of the dense fringe, in itself not a quarter of an inch deep, turns out to be a tiny sertularian with at least twenty mouths. You can see this with your pocket lens even as it hangs here, and when you have examined it you can by and by take off one thread and put it carefully in the trough. I promise you a sight of the most beautiful little beings which exist in nature.
Come and look at it. It is a horny-branched stem [pg 373] with a double row of tiny cups all along each side. Out of these cups there appear a row of tiny cups all along each side (see Fig. 5), Out of these cups there appear from time to time sixteen minute transparent tentacles as fine as spun glass, which wave about in the water. If you shake the glass a little, in an instant each crystal star vanishes into its cup, to come out again a few minutes later; so that now here, now there, the delicate animal-flowers spread out on each side of the stem, and the tree is covered with moving beings. These tentacles are feelers, which lash food into a mouth and stomach in each cup, where it is digested and passed, through a hole in the bottom, along a jelly thread which runs down the stem and joins all the mouths together. In this way the food is distributed all over the tree, which is, in fact, one animal with many feeding-cups. Some day I will show you one of these cups with the tentacles stretched out and mounted on a slide, so that you can examine a tentacle with a very strong magnifying power. You will then see that it is dotted over with cells, in which are coiled fine threads. The animal uses these threads to paralyze the creatures on which it feeds, for at the base of each thread there is a poison gland.
In the larger Sertularia the whole branched tree is connected by jelly threads, running through the stem, and all the thousands of mouths are spread out in the water. One large form called Sertularia cupressina grows sometimes three feet high and bears as many as a hundred thousand cups, with living mouths, on its branches.
The next of my minute friends I can only show to [pg 374] the class in a diagram, but you will see it under the fourth microscope by and by. I had great trouble in finding it yesterday, though I know its haunts upon the green weed, for it is so minute and transparent that even when the weed is in a trough a magnifying-glass will scarcely detect it. And I must warn you that if you want to know any of the minute creatures we are studying, you must visit one place constantly. You may in a casual way find many of them on seaweed, or in the damp ooze and mud, but it will be by chance only; to look for them with any certainty you must take trouble in making their acquaintance.
Turning then to the diagram (Fig. 6) I will describe it as I hope you will see it under the microscope—a curious, tiny, perfectly transparent open-mouthed vase standing upright on the weed, and having an equally transparent being rising up in it and waving its tiny lashes in the water. This is really all one animal, the vase hc being the horny covering or carapace of the body, which last stands up like a tube in the centre. If you watch carefully, you may even see the minute atoms of food twisting round inside the tube until they are digested, after they have been swept in at the wide open mouth by the whirling lashes. You will see this [pg 375] more clearly if you put a little rice-flour, very minutely powdered and colored by carmine, into the water; for you can trace these red atoms into some round spaces called vacuoles which are dotted over the body of the animal, and are really globules of watery fluid in which the food is probably partly digested.
You will notice, however, one round clear space (cv) into which they do not go, and after a time you will be able to observe that this round spot closes up or contracts very quickly, and then expands again very slowly. As it expands it fills with a clear fluid, and naturalists have not yet decided exactly what work it does. It may serve the animal either for breathing, or as a very simple heart, making the fluids circulate in the tube. The next interesting point about this little being is the way it retreats into its sheltering vase. Even while you are watching, it is quite likely it may all at once draw itself down to the bottom as in No. 2, and folding down the valves w of horny teeth which grow on each side, shut itself in from some fancied danger. Another very curious point is that, besides sending forth young ones, these creatures multiply by dividing in two each one closing its own part of the vase into a new home.
There are hundreds of these Infusoria, as they are called, in my pond, some with vases, some without, some fixed to weeds and stones, others swimming about freely. Even in the water-trough in which this Thuricolla stands, I saw several smaller forms, and the next microscope has a trough filled with the minutest form of all, called a Monad. These are so small that two thousand of them could lie side by side in an inch; [pg 376] that is, if you could make them lie at all, for they are the most restless little beings, darting hither and thither, scarcely even halting except to turn back. And yet though there are so many of them, and as far as we know they have no organs of sight, they never run up against each other, but glide past more cleverly than any clear-sighted fish. These creatures are mostly to be found among decaying seaweed, and though they are so tiny, you can still see distinctly the clear space contracting and expanding within them.
But if there are so many thousands of mouths to feed, on the tree-like Sertulariæ as well as in all these Infusoria, where does the food come from? Partly from the numerous atoms of decaying life all around, and the minute eggs of animals and spores of plants; but besides these, the pool is full of minute living plants—small jelly masses with solid coats of flint which are moulded into most lovely shapes. Plants formed of jelly and flint! You will think I am joking, but I am not. These plants, called Diatoms, which live both in salt and fresh water, are single cells feeding and growing just like those we took from the water-butt, only that instead of a soft covering they build up [pg 377] a flinty skeleton. They are so small, that many of them must be magnified to fifty times their real size before you can even see them distinctly. Yet the skeletons of these almost invisible plants are carved and chiselled in the most delicate patterns. I showed you a group of these in our lecture on magic glasses, and now I have brought a few living ones that we may learn to know them. The diagram shows the chief forms you will see on the different slides. The first one, Sacillaria paradoxa looks like a number of rods clinging one to another in a string, but each one of these is a single-celled plant with a jelly cell surrounding the flinty skeleton. You will see that they move to and fro over each other in the water.
The next two forms, a and c, look much more like plants, for the cells arrange themselves on a jelly stem, which by and by disappears, leaving only the separate flint skeletons. The last form, d, is something midway between the other forms, the separate cells hang on to each other and also on to a straight jelly stem.
Another species of Diatoma called Diatoma vulgare, is a very simple and common form, and will help to explain how these plants grow. The two flinty valves a, b inside the cell are not quite the same size; the older one a is larger than the younger one b and fits over it like the cover of a pill-box. As the plant grows, the cell enlarges and forms two [pg 378] more valves, one c fitting into the cover a, so as to make a complete box ac, and a second, d, back to back with c, fitting into the valve b, and making another complete bd. This goes on very rapidly, and in this plant each new cell separates as it is formed, and the free diatoms move about quite actively in the water.
If you consider for a moment, you will see that, as the new valves always fit into the old ones, each must be smaller than the last, and so there comes a time when the valves have become too small to go on increasing. Then the plant must begin afresh. So the two halves of the last cell open, and throwing out their flinty skeletons, cover themselves with a thin jelly layer, and form a new cell which grows larger than any of the old ones. These, which are spore-cells, then form flinty valves inside, and the whole thing begins again.
Now, though the plants themselves die, or become the food of minute animals, the flinty skeletons are not destroyed, but go on accumulating in the waters of the ponds, lakes, rivers, and seas, all over the world. Untold millions have no doubt crumbled to dust and gone back into the waters, but untold millions also have survived. The towns of Berlin in Europe and of Richmond in the United States are actually built upon ground called "infusorial earth," composed almost entirely of valves of these minute diatoms which have accumulated to a thickness of more than eighty feet! Those under Berlin are freshwater forms, and must have lived in a lake, while those of Richmond belong to salt-water forms. Every inch of the ground under those cities represents thousands and thousands of living plants[pg 379] which flourished in ages long gone by, and were no larger than those you will see presently under the microscope.
These are a very few of the microscopic inhabitants of my pond, but, as you will confuse them if I show you too many, we will conclude with two rather larger specimens, and examine them carefully. The first, called the Cydippe, is a lovely, transparent living ball, which I want to explain to you because it is so wondrously beautiful. The second, the Sea-mat or Flustra, looks like a crumpled drab-colored seaweed, but is really composed of many thousands of grottos, the homes of tiny sea-animals.
Let us take the Cydippe first (1, Fig. 9). I have six here, each in a separate tumbler, and could have brought many more, for when I dipped my net in the pool yesterday such numbers were caught in it that I believe the retreating tide must just have left a shoal behind. Put a tumbler on the desk in front of you, [pg 380] and if the light falls well upon it you will see a transparent ball about the size of a large pea marked with eight bright bands, which begin at the lower end of the ball and reach nearly to the top, dividing the outside into sections like the ribs of a melon. The creature is so perfectly transparent that you can count all the eight bands.
At the top of the ball is a slight bulge which is the mouth (m 2, Fig. 9), and from it, inside the ball hangs a long bag or stomach, which opens below into a cavity, from which two canals branch out, one on each side, and these divide again into four canals which go one into each of the tubes running down the bands. From this cavity the food, which is digested in the stomach, is carried by the canals all over the body. The smaller tubes which branch out of these canals cannot be seen clearly without a very strong lens, and the only other parts you can discern in this transparent ball are two long sacs on each side of the lower end. These are the tentacle sacs, in which are coiled up the tentacles, which we shall describe presently. Lastly you can notice that the bands outside the globe are broader in the middle than at the ends, and are striped across by a number of ridges.
In moving the tumblers the water has naturally been shaken, and the creature being alarmed will probably at first remain motionless. But very soon it will begin to play in the water, rising and falling, and swimming gracefully from side to side. Now you will notice a curious effect, for the bands will glitter and become tinged with prismatic colors, till, as it moves more and more rapidly these colors, reflected in the jelly, seem[pg 381] to tinge the whole ball with colors like those on a soap-bubble, while from the two sacs below come forth two long transparent threads like spun glass. At first these appear to be simple threads, but as they gradually open out to about four or five inches, smaller threads uncoil on each side of the line till there are about fifty on each line. These short tendrils are never still for long; as the main threads wave to and fro, some of the shorter ones coil up and hang like tiny beads, then these uncoil and others roll up, so that these graceful floating lines are never two seconds alike.
We do not really know their use. Sometimes the creature anchors itself by them, rising and falling as they stretch out or coil up; but more often they float idly behind it in the water. At first you would perhaps think that they served to drive the ball through the water, but this is done by a special apparatus. The cross ridges which we noticed on the bands are really flat comb-like plates of which there are about twenty or thirty on each band; and these vibrate very rapidly, so that two hundred or more paddles drive the tiny ball through the water. This is the cause of the prismatic colors; for iridescent tints are produced by the play of light upon the glittering plates, as they incessantly change their angle. Sometimes they move all at once, sometimes only a few at a time, and it is evident the creature controls them at will.
This lovely fairy-like globe, with its long floating tentacles and rainbow tints, was for a long time classed with the jelly-fish; but it really is most nearly related to the seaanemones, as it has a true central cavity which acts as a stomach, and many other points in common [pg 382] with the Actinozoa. We cannot help wondering, as the little being glides hither and thither, whether it can see where it is going. It has nerves of a low kind which start from a little dark spot (ng) exactly at the south pole of the ball, and at that point a sense-organ of some kind exists, but what impression the creature gains from it of the world outside we cannot tell.
I am afraid you may think it dull to turn from such a beautiful being as this, to the gray leaf which looks only like a dead dry seaweed; yet you will be wrong, for a more wonderful history attaches to this crumpled dead-looking leaf than to the lovely jellyglobe.
First of all I will pass round pieces of the dry leaf (1, Fig. 10), and while you are getting them I will tell you where I found the living ones. Great masses of the Flustra, as it is called, line the bottom and sides of my pool. They grow in tufts, standing upright on the rock, and looking exactly like hard gray seaweeds, while there is nothing to lead you to suspect that they are anything else. Yesterday I chipped off very carefully a piece of rock with a tuft upon it, and have kept it since in a glass globe by itself with sea-water, for the little creatures living in this marine city require a very good supply of healthy water and air. I have called it a "marine [pg 383] city," and now I will tell you why. Take the piece in your hand and run your finger gently up and down it; you will glide quite comfortably from the lower to the higher part of the leaf, but when you come back you will feel your finger catch slightly on a rough surface. Your pocket lens will show you why this is, for if you look through it at the surface of the leaf you will see it is not smooth, but composed of hundreds of tiny alcoves with arched tops; and on each side of these tops stand two short blunt spines, making four in all, pointing upwards, so as partly to cover the alcove above. As your finger went up it glided over the spines, but on coming back it met their points. This is all you can see in the dead specimen; I must show you the rest by diagrams, and by and by under the microscope.
First, then, in the living specimen which I have here, those alcoves are not open as in the dead piece, but covered over with a transparent skin, in which, near the top of the alcove just where the curve begins, is a slit (s 2, Fig. 10) Unfortunately, the membrane covering this alcove is too dense for you to distinguish the parts within. Presently, however, if you are watching a piece of this living leaf in a flat water-cell under the microscope, you will see the slit slowly open, and begin to turn as it were inside out, exactly like the finger of a glove, which has been pushed in at the tip, gradually rises up when you put your finger inside it. As this goes on, a bundle of threads appears, at first closed like a bud, but gradually opening out into a crown of tentacles, each one clothed with hairs. Then you will see that the slit was not exactly a slit after all, but the round edge where the sac was [pg 384] pushed in. Ah! you will say, you are now showing me a polyp like those on the sertularian tree. Not so fast, my friend; you have not studied what is still under the covering skin and hidden in the living animal. I have, however, prepared a slide with this membrane removed and there you can observe the different parts, and learn that each one of these alcoves contains a complete animal, and not merely one among many mouths, like the polyp on Sertularia.
Each of these little beings ( a, Fig. 10) living in its alcove has a mouth, throat, stomach, intestine, muscles, and nerves starting from the ganglion of nervous matter, besides all that is necessary for producing eggs and sending forth young ones. You can trace all these under the microscope (see 2, Fig. 11) as the creature lies curiously doubled up in its bed, with its body bent in a loop; the intestine i, out of which the refuse food passes, coming back close up to the slit. When it is at rest, the top of the sac in which it lies is pulled in by the retractor muscle r, and looks, as I have said, like the finger of a glove with the top pushed in. When it wishes to feed this top is drawn out by muscles running [pg 385] round the sac, and the tentacles open and wave in the water (1, Fig. 11).
Look now at the alcoves, the homes of these animals; see how tiny they are and how closely they fit together. Mr. Gosse, the naturalist, has reckoned that there are six thousand, seven hundred and twenty alcoves in a square inch; then if you turn the leaf over you will see that there is another set, fixed back to back with these, on the other side, making in all, thirteen thousand, four hundred and forty alcoves. Now a moderate-sized leaf of flustra measures about three square inches, taking all the rounded lobes into account, so you will see we get forty thousand, three hundred and twenty as a rough estimate of the number of beings on this one leaf. But if you look at this tuft I have brought, you will find it is composed of twelve such leaves, and this after all is a very small part of the mass growing round my pool. Was I wrong, then, when I said my miniature ocean contains as many millions of beings as there are stars in the heavens?
You will want to know how these leaves grew, and it is in this way. First a little free swimming animal, a mere living sac provided with lashes, settles down and grows into one little horny alcove, with its live creature inside, which in time sends off from it three to five buds, forming alcoves all round the top and sides of the first one, growing on to it. These again bud out, and you can thus easily understand that, in this way, in time a goodsized leaf is formed. Meanwhile the creatures also send forth new swimming cells, which settle down near to begin new leaves, and thus [pg 386] a tuft is formed; and long after the beings in earlier parts of the leaf have died and left their alcoves empty, those round the margin are still alive and spreading....
If you can trace the spore-cells and urns in the seaweeds, observe the polyps in the Sertularia, and count the number of mouths on a branch of my animal fringe (Sertularia tenella); if you make acquaintance with the Thuricolla in its vase, and are fortunate enough to see one divide in two; if you learn to know some of the beautiful forms of diatoms, and can picture to yourself the life of the tiny inhabitants of the Flustra; then you will have used your microscope with some effect, and be prepared for an expedition to my pool, where we will go together some day to seek new treasures.
A GASSIZ, J.L.R., naturalist, born in Switzerland, 1807; died, Cambridge, Mass., 1873. In 1846 he came to America, after having gained a high reputation in Europe, to deliver a course of lectures in Boston "On the Plan of the Creation," and met with such success that he spent the rest of his days there, declining an invitation to return to his native country and to Paris. In 1848 he was elected to the chair of Natural History at Harvard. In 1850-51 he went on an expedition to the Florida Reefs. In 1858 he founded and organized the Museum of Comparative Zoölogy at Cambridge—and, later on, went on his important voyage to Brazil. In 1872 he founded and organized the summer school of Natural History at Buzzard's Bay. He wrote "The Fishes of Brazil," "A Study of Glaciers," "Natural History of the Fresh Water Fishes of Central Europe," "Contributions to the Natural History of the United States" (unfinished), and with his wife, "A Journey in Brazil."
B ALL, PROF. SIR R.S., English astronomer, born in Dublin, 1840. Was appointed Lord Ross's astronomer in 1865. Professor of mathematics and mechanics at the Royal Irish College of Science in 1873, and is now astronomer royal for Ireland. He is the author of "The Story of the Heavens," "Starland," etc., and is well known as a successful lecturer on astronomical subjects in this country.
D ARWIN, CHARLES R., English naturalist, born, 1809; died, 1882. He first formulated what is known as the principle of Natural Selection. In 1831 he went in the famous scientific voyage of the Beagle as naturalist, and afterwards published an account of it. He was one of the most thorough, careful, and painstaking scientific men of this or any age. He is the author of many famous books. "The Origin of Species," "The Descent of Man," "Insectivorous Plants," "The Power of Movement in Plants," "The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs," "Geological Observations on Volcanic Islands." "The Formation of Vegetable Mould" was his last published work.
F LAMMARION, C., famous French astronomer, born, 1842. He has written many popular works on astronomy, most of which have been translated into English. "The Stars," "The World Before the Creation," "Uranus," "Comets," "Popular Astronomy," are among his best known.
H OLDEN, PROF. E.S., American astronomer, born at St. Louis, 1846. Lieutenant engineers, U.S.A., 1870-73; professor mathematics, U.S.N., 1873-81; director Washburn Observatory, 1881-85; president University of California, 1883-88; director Lick Observatory, 1888-98. Is a member of several learned societies of Europe. Is the author of a "Life of William Herschel," "A Hand-book of the Lick Observatory," "Earth and Sky," "Primer of Heraldry," "Elementary Astronomy," "Family of the Sun," "Essays in Astronomy," "Stories of the Great Astronomers," etc.
H UXLEY, T.H., English biologist, born, 1825; died, 1895. Went on an exploring expedition on the Rattlesnake, and devoted himself to the study of marine life. For his scientific researches he received many honors. His lectures were models of clearness, and he could simplify the most difficult subjects. He strongly advocated Darwin's views and evolutionist doctrines. His writings are numerous and many of them technical. Among some of the most popular are "Man's Place in Nature," his "Lay Sermons," "Critiques and Addresses," "American Addresses," "Physiography," "Science and Culture," "Lessons in Elementary Physiology," etc.[pg 388]
K INGSLEY, C., English clergyman and author, born, 1819; died, 1875. Wrote "Westward, Ho!" which every boy should read, "Hypatia," "Alton Locke," "Hereward the Wake," etc., and a charming book of travel, entitled, "At Last." His "Water Babies" is exceedingly popular, and his "Heroes" is a book much appreciated by the boys and girls alike.
P ROCTOR, R.A., English astronomer, born, 1834; died, 1888. He was a very popular writer, and lectured on astronomical subjects in this country, and in England and her colonies. A memorial teaching observatory is erected in his honor near San Diego, Cal. He was a man of untiring industry, an athlete, a musician, and a chess-player. His books are numerous. Among them are "Half Hours with the Telescope," "Other Worlds than Ours," "Light Science for Leisure Hours," "The Expanse of Heaven," "The Moon," "The Borderland of Science," "Our Place Among Infinites," "Myths and Marvels of Astronomy," "The Universe of Suns," "Other Suns than Ours," etc.
S HALER, N.S., professor of geology at Harvard. Born Newport, Ky., 1841. Served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Instructor zoölogy, geology, and paleontology, Lawrence Scientific School, till 1887. Since then at Harvard. Is the author of "Kentucky a Pioneer Commonwealth," "The Story of Our Continent," "The Interpretation of Nature," "Feature of Coasts and Oceans," "Domesticated Animals," "The Individual," "Study of Life and Death," etc.
T HOMPSON, SIR C. WYVILLE, English zoölogist, born, 1830; died, 1882. He conducted scientific dredging expeditions in the Lightning and Porcupine, 1868-69, and was the scientific head of the famous voyage of 68,900 miles in the Challenger for deep-sea explorations (1872-76). His books are "The Depths of the Sea," and "The Voyage of the Challenger."
T YNDALL, JOHN, English physicist, born, 1820. Began his original researches in 1847, when teacher of physics in Queenwood College. He and Professor Huxley visited the Alps together, and they wrote a work on the structure and nature of glaciers. It is impossible to detail the work he has done; but his inquiries and experiments in connection with light, heat, sound, and electricity have all had practical results. He is a popular lecturer, and devoted the proceeds of a lecturing tour in this country to founding scholarships at Harvard and Columbia Colleges, for students devoting themselves to original research. Among his books are "Glaciers of the Alps," "Mountaineering," "Heat as a Mode of Motion," "On Radiation," "Hours of Exercise in the Alps," "Fragments of Science," "The Floating Matter of the Air," and volumes on Light, Sound, Electricity, and the forms of water.
W ALLACE, A.R., English naturalist and traveller, born 1822; was educated as land surveyor and architect, but afterwards devoted himself entirely to Natural History. He explored the Valley of the Amazon and Rio Negro, 1848-52, and travelled in the Malay Archipelago and Papua, 1854-62, publishing the results of his explorations later on. He also wrote "Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection," "Miracles and Modern Spiritualism," "Geographical Distribution of Animals," "Tropical Nature," "Island Life," etc.
G IBERNE, AGNES, English author—living. Began to write at seven years old. Her first story for children was published when she was only seventeen. Her stories for children have not been so popular as her scientific writings, "Sun, Moon, and Stars," "The Starry Skies," "Among the Stars," "The Ocean of Air," "The World's Foundations," "Radiant Suns," etc.
W ILSON, ANDREW, English physiologist and lecturer, born, 1852. Is the author of "Studies on Life and Sense," "Leisure Time Studies," "Science Stories," "Chapters on Evolution," "Wild Animals," "Brain and Nerve," etc., and is a constant contributor on scientific subjects to the magazines and newspapers, contributing weekly "Science Jottings" to the "Illustrated London News"