The forms of Water in Clouds and Rivers, Ice, and Glaciers


    WHATEVER comes from Dr. Tyndall's pen is sure to be vivid and clear. The present little volume forms no exception to this rule. It seems to have been composed partly in the form of popular lectures and partly as a sort of journal of a visit last year to the author's favourite holiday haunts among the Swiss glaciers. Very readable, it nevertheless betrays this composite origin, and wears more the aspect of a piece of book-making than probably its author himself could have wished. A wrong impression of the subject is created by the title, which though singularly happy in itself does not fairly describe the contents of the book. Such a title suggests an accurate and luminous discussion of the phenomena of evaporation and condensation, the growth and movements and disappearances of mists and clouds, the formation and distribution of rain and the laws regulating the rainfall over the globe, the meaning of frost, the birth and history of hail and snow, the circulation of water over the land with the ways and workings of brook, stream, and river, from mountain-peak to sea-shore, the architecture and the functions of snow-fields, glaciers, and icebergs—in short a kind of scientific poem, dedicated to the glory of that grand old element—water. Dr. Tyndall could write such a poem better than most men, and indeed it was with the expectation that he had attempted it that we opened this last volume of his. Out of the 192 pages 28 are devoted to clouds, rains, rivers, waves of light and heat, oceanic distillation and mountain condensers. The rest treat wholly of ice. So that if we may judge by the relative space devoted to the different forms of water, ice must be six times more important than all the rest put together. A less ambitious title, such as its author could readily suggest, descriptive of the fact that the book is a record of work, intellectual and corporeal, among the Swiss glaciers, would prevent the feeling of disappointment with which many a reader has no doubt come to the last page.

    The forms of Water in Clouds and Rivers, Ice, and Glaciers.

    By John Tyndall (London: H. S. King & Co.)

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    The forms of Water in Clouds and Rivers, Ice, and Glaciers . Nature 7, 400–401 (1873) doi:10.1038/007400a0

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