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Elementary Treatise on Natural Philosophy


THIS work is intended to be an elementary treatise on the science of Heat. The remarkably fine engravings that embellish it throughout, give it an air of reality which, unfortunately, is not generally possessed by English scientific books. Still, some of the original engravings might have been improved; for example, figs. 223, 240, 245, and 264 are peculiar, and do not represent what is likely to be seen in the laboratory. Having said this much in favour of Prof. Everett's translation, we cannot avoid making some unfavourable criticisms. We decidedly object to the numerous formulæ and equations which may almost be said to disfigure many of the pages; they are not sufficiently explained for a popular work, and might have been more compressed if intended for advanced scientific students. And seeing that formulae and explanations usually vary inversely as each other within the same volume, we should have been pleased—indeed, we expected—to find as many of the former eliminated as possible. This expectation was occasioned by the translator himself, who complained that oftentimes we are confronted with “unexplained formulae, which burden the memory without cultivating the understanding.”Can Prof. Everett assert that he has explained the formula on page 362 of Part 2? Has he not rather fallen into the very error which he so ably deplores in his preface; failing to see amid V, KT, and other algebraic mystifications, that his H and h are not directly comparable: that the mercury in Gay-Lussac's tube is hot, while a barometer is generally cool? A student of Nature will scarcely be taught much that is satisfactory concerning Gay-Lussac's beautiful method of determining vapour densities, by being led away at once into intricate formulae “which burden the memory, without cultivating the understanding.”This one example will sufficiently indicate the fault which runs through the whole volume before us. Much new and valuable matter, albeit besprinkled with formulas, has been added by the translator; and various passages in the original have been modified or otherwise corrected. But, though we have no hesitation in saying that the original has been thereby improved, yet the final result is neither remarkable for its novelty, nor edifying from its simplicity.

Elementary Treatise on Natural Philosophy.

By A. Privat Deschanel. Translated and edited by Prof. Everett, M.A., D.C.L., &c., Professor of Natural Philosophy, Queen's College, Belfast. In Four Parts Part 2.—Heat. (London: Blackie and Son.)

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Elementary Treatise on Natural Philosophy . Nature 4, 343–344 (1871).

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