« AnteriorContinuar »
Conjectures relative to the Petrifatlions found in St. Peter's Moun.
tain, near Maestricht. By Petrus Camper, M. D. F.R. S.
A great number of petrified bones of various kinds, particuJarly large jaw-bones with their teeth, were discovered in this mountain, about the year 1770. They were supposed by naturalists to be bones of the crocodile. Dr. Camper has here refuted that opinion, and Thewn, from the great quantity of undoubted marine productions found along with them, that they belonged rather to marine than river animals, and from a comparison of their structure and conformation with the real bones of crocodiles, that they could not have belonged to that animal; but, on the contrary, have the effential characters of the Amphibia Nantes. The descriptions are illustrated by two plates. Account of some minute British Shells, either not duly observed, or totally
unnoticed by Authors. By the Rev.John Lightfoot, M.A. F.R.S.
A nautilus lacuflris, a helix fontana, a helix spinuloja, and turbo helicinus, two land shells, and a pacella oblonga, found on the leaves of the water-fag, are described, and different views of them exhibited in three plates. They were all discovered, as the Author informs us, by Mr. Agnew, gardener to the late Duchess dowager of Portland, and by his faithtul pencil they were drawn.
After the account of these shells, Mr. Lightfoot takes notice of an error which has been almost universally adopted by the collectors and dealers in shells, respecting certain subjects brought from the West Indies, and commonly known by the name of gold Shells. They are yellow glossy substances, of the size of tares or vetches, composed of brittle imbricated scales, like the foliaceous buds of a tree, generally with a perforation in some part. By macerating these supposed shells in hot water for a few minutes, and then carefully developing the scales, he found an insect in the center, of a roundith figure, about the size of a small bedbug, and in every inftance except one (out of at least fifty that were opened) without wings. The single specimen that had wings was oblong, and narrower than the rest, as in the other insects that are winged and unwinged in the different sexes. From the whole of this curious examination it appears, that the gold shells are no other than the cases or cells of an insect in its pupa Itate, and that the insect is a species of cochineal or coccus, probably not hitherto described. Account of a new electrical Fish. By Lieutenant William
Paterson of the 98th Regiment. While the regiment was at the Island of Johanna, one of the Comora islands, in its way to the Eaft Indies, the Lieutenant caught two of these fithes in a linen bag, and sufficiently ascertains their electric faculty. He gives a drawing (acknowledged to be but an imperfect one) and thort description of the fish, such as circumstances would admit. It appears to be different in many respects from the electric ones hitherto described ; about 7 inches long, 2 broad, with a long projecting mouth; the back dark brown, the belly fea-green, the sides yellow, the fins and tail of a sandy green; the body interspersed with red, green, and white spots. We mention these particulars, as our Review may come into the hands of those who may have opportunities of making further enquiries. Particulars relative to the Nature and Customs of the Indians of
North America. By Richard M'Causland, Surgeon to the King's, or eighth Regiment of Foot.
The Indians of America have been said to differ from other males of the human species, in the want of a beard ; and as the Esquimaux are found to be furnished with thac usual characteriftic of the sex, they are supposed to have had an origin different from that of the other natives of America. Inferences have hence been drawn, respecting not only the origin, but the conformation, of Indians; and philosophers are obliged to Mr. M'Caufland for undeceiving them in regard to the matter of fact. He has produced decisive evidence, that the Indians do not differ from the rest of men in this particular more than one European does from another; that they pluck out the hairs on their first appearance, and continue the same practice when any appear afterwards, having an instrument on purpose for that use and that many of them allow tufts of hair to grow on particular parts of the face, resembling those we fee in different nations of the old world. A few particulars are subjoined respecting the Six Nations; their division into tribes, the succession to the dignity of Sachem, and the institution of private friendships : when any one is killed, it is the duty of every surviving friend to replace him to the family, either by a scalp, a prisoner, or a belt of some thousands of wampum.
Ch: New Experiments on the ocular Specira of Light and Colours. By
Robert Waring Darwin, M. D. When any bright object has been long and attentively looked at, an image, or resemblance of that object, remains some time visible after the eyes are turned away or shut.
This appearance in the eye Dr. Darwin calls the ocular spectrum of that object, These specira the Doctor divides into four distinct kinds : ift, Such as are owing to a less fenfibility of a defined part of the retina, which he terms spectra from defect of sensibility. 2dly, Such as are owing to a greater sendibility of a defined part of the retina, or spectra from excess of sensibility. 3dly, Such as resemble their object in colour as well as form, or direlspectra ; and 4thly, Such as are of a colour contrary to that of their object, or reverse spectra.
From confidering the first class our Author concludes, that o the retina is not to easily excited into action by less irritation after having been lately subjected to greater. Every nerve in
the human body observes the same law; and we know not any membrane, whose furface is fenfible, that can be irritated by a Jess action immediately after having suffered a greater. The conclufion drawn from the second class is the reverse of the foregoing, namely, that the retina is more easily excited into action by greater irritation after having been lately subjected to a less.' The dire&t spectra prove, in Dr. D.'s opinion, that a • quantity of ftimulus, somewhat greater than natural, excites the rerina into spasmodic action. The 4th class induces our Author to conclude, that the retina, after having been excited into action by a stimulus somewhat greater than the laft, falls into oppofite spasmodic action.'
Such are the general inferences that the Doctor draws from the experiments here recorded; but the experiments themselves, which are really curious, cannot be abridged without exceeding our bounds. We therefore refer our readers to the Transactions at large. The reader will, however, find some inconvenience from the plates being uncoloured; for which reason we would advise him to make coloured drawings of each figure on separate papers, which will enable him to repeat these pleasing experiments with greater accuracy.
We have always supposed that, during vifion, the eye, especially the retina, was in a passive state ; but from these experimenis of our ingenious Author, all vifion seems to be owing to the action of this organ: It is even probable that the retina is furnished with muscular fibres. An Investigation of the Cause of that indistinctness of Vision which has been ascribed to the smallness of the optic Pencil. By Dr. Herschel
In this paper the Doctor relates a number of experiments which tend to prove, that the smallness of the optic pencil has not so great an effect in rendering vision indiftinct, as has been generally imagined. He concludes with wishing that, till he has repeated, extended, and varied these experimental investigations, they may be considered as mere hints that may afford mat. ter for future disquisitions to the theoretical optician. At prefent the Doctor's engagement in constructing a forty-feet reflecting telescope (amazing undertaking !) scarcely permits much lei. fure for other pursuits.
1 ART. II. The Bhagvat-Geeta, or Dialogues of Kreefhna and Arjoon.
In eighteen Lectures, with Notes. Translated from the Original, in the Sanskreet, or ancient Language of the Brahmans. By Charles Wilkins, Senior Merchant in the Service of the Honourable the East India Company, on their Bengal Etablishment. 410. 75. 6d. Boards. Nourse. N the various and interesting history of the human mind, our
curiosity is irresistibly attracted by those pages, which exhibit manners and opinions far removed from our own. To such
descriptions we liften with peculiar pleasure : yet bere, where we most with for information, we are most likely to meet with error. We listen not long before we are disgusted by obscure and contradictory accounts; and, despairing to extract truth from such a mass of discordant fiction, too frequently Thun credulity by a sullen acquiescence in ignorance. This we readily confess to have been our own case, when we first compared the representations of those who have written on the religion and mythology of the Hindoos. Indeed, a kind of fatality has attended almost every attempt to illustrate the history, or explain the creed, of this extraordinary people ; the accounts which have been given of them by modern travellers being no less inconfiftent with each other than what has been variously related of their anceftors by the Greek and Roman historians. If Diodorus, Strabo, and Arrian,-if Pliny, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Plutarch, speak of the ancient Brahmans in terms of uncertainty and contradiction,-similar, if not equal, inconsistencies obscure the writings of Roger and of Philips, of Bernier and Baldæus, of Holwell and of Dow. We mean not to accuse these writers of careless or wilful misrepresentation. The peculiar difficulty of the undertaking is a sufficient apology for their failure. Where so many varieties of opinion abounded, the talk of discrimination would have been difficult, even if each sect had fyftematized its tenets, and submitted them in writing to the inspection of the enquirers. Even with this advantage they must have encountered innumerable obstacles. They must have contended at once with the obscurity of a foreign language, with the wild exuberance of imagination so conspicuous in eaftern compofitions, with a profufion of allegories the most licentious, and metaphors the most daring, which envelope the rubrieties of metaphyfics in tenfold darkness.--But still more arduous has been the undertaking of those travellers, from whom the little that is recorded of the Indian learning and theology has been collected. It is seldom they have been able to procure a sight of the Hindoo books, and still less frequently have they been able to read them when procured, though, without an actual perusal of them, nothing certain can be learnt of their contenis. The priests, to whose care they are entrusted, have hitherto guarded them, with the most obftinate jealousy, from the eyes of strangers; and the laity, who are ignorant of the language, are confequently unable to explain them. We are happy, however, to find, from the publications of Mr. Helhed and Mr. Wilkins, that these prejudices have in some degree begun to give way, and, for the honour of our country, as well as for the honour of humanity, we heartily with that, by the justice and liberality of its' future conduct, our government in India may lay a foundation for the full and unlimited confidence of this hitherto oppresled and much injured people,
Indeed, till all the sacred books of the Hindoos are translated from authentic copies into the western languages, the subject must still remain involved in error and contradiction : for cilt then we can neither distinguish the ancient Brahmanical doctrines from others which are of a later date, nor judge of the opinions of the different seats by referring them to one common standard. Nor are such translations to be wilhed for only by the inquisitive philosopher. The genius and habits of a people, with whom Europe is so closely connected by commercial ties, might be contemplated by the merchant and the politician with equal pleasure and advantage; and in our own country, where these characters are so closely connected by the territorial acquifitions of the India Company, an acquaintance with Indian literature in general might have the moft beneficial effects. It might even tend to redeem the national character, by teaching Englishmen to consider the natives of India as Men, as Beings endued
Heaven with the same faculties, the fame talents, and the same feelings with themselves, and consequently entitled to the same justice and the fame compassion.
In saying this, we mean not to intrude our sentiments on the subject of Indian politics. We pretend not to determine on the foundness or the equity of that policy, by which commerce is arrayed in all the horrors of war, by which the trader is suffered to assume the truncheon of the general, and the disputes cf the counting-house are decided in the field of battle. This is a mystery in the art of government, which the experience of no very distant age may possibly unravel. It is sufficient for us to bear our teftimony to the beneficial tendency of every attempt, which, by throwing light on the opinions of the Hindoos, may promote the cause of learning and humanity. Such in general is the character of the work before us. It is published under the authority of the Court of Directors of the East India Company, at the particular desire and recommendation of Mr. Hastings, who, in a letter addressed to the Chairman of the Company, and now prefixed to the work, explains the motives for its publication, and bears moft honourable testimony to the fidelity, accuracy, and merit of the translator. Indeed, Mr. H.'s letter does not consist merely of introductory remarks, but contains a fort of critique on the work itself. He must, however, excuse us if we have the presumption to differ from him, not only in our estimate of the merits of the Geeta, considered as a compofition, but also in the principles on which that estimate has been formed. Mr. H. fays, that might he, an unlettered man, venture to prescribe bounds to the latitude of criticism, he would exclude, in estimating the merit of such a production, all rules drawn from the ancient or modern literature of Europe, all references to such sentiments or manners as are become the standards of