THE great success of the Electric Exhibition at Paris of 1881 has not failed to produce an effect upon the demand for books dealing with electrical science, and particularly with the practical applications of electricity. The wide extension of electric lighting, and the continued growth of popular interest in the subject are producing a perceptible effect also on the book market of this country. Text-books of electricity were never so greatly in demand as to-day, and we were recently informed that one of the newest-published text-books of the science is being bought by the public at the rate of a thousand copies a month. Under these circumstances it would be remarkable if all the works put before the public were of equal scientific merit, for such a demand cannot but tempt into the field the semi-scientific bookmaker who is ever ready to produce something to meet a popular taste. The work before us must, we fear, be classed with the semi-scientific. Its authors, so far as we are aware, are gentlemen who lave yet to make their mark in the scientific world, and who, though not ill-informed in a general kind of way as to the applications of the science, cannot be said to have added by their present work to the scientific knowledge of the subject. The work opens with an account of the history of lighting in general from the days of Greece and Rome; and it devotes no inconsiderable part of its pages to the early history of electric lighting. We observe, by the way, that the authors fall into the error of putting Davy's discovery of the voltaic arc so late as the year 1813, when he experimented with his large battery of 200 cells. But he had discovered the arc at least nine years before that date. The manufacture of carbons for electric light claims half a dozen pages. Not too much when there is so much dependent on the quality of the carbon, and when carbons are as bad as they are. But we were not aware that those of M. Napoli were so superior to all others as to deserve a monopoly of description. The process of covering the exterior of the carbon-rods with an electrodeposited coating of copper is stated by the authors to have been first adopted in 1875 by M. Reynier, whose semi-incandescent lamp and modified Daniell's battery are described in effusive detail, though neither of these inventions can be said to be of capital importance. The chief feature in the book is that part which deals with the various systems of electric incandescent lamps. These are described very fully and with copious illustrations. The authors appear to prefer the system of Edison, for whom they have a great admiration, of whom they give a portrait (an honour shared by M. Gramme only), and concerning whom they narrate very naively several gossipy tales—how he and his assistants were nearly poisoned by mercury vapour when they first tried to work Sprengel pumps, and how he sent an expedition south for the metal thorium. The section devoted to dynamo-electric machines is also well illustrated, and fairly descriptive, though the style of exposition is of the “popular” order. The work concludes with a notice of the application of electric light to lighthouses, to naval and military warfare, and to the stage. With respect to the first of these applications, the authors attribute to Fresnel the application of dioptric lenses to lighthouses. Is it ignorance, or is it patriotic bigotry that is to blame for their obliviousness of the fact that Brewster suggested this very application in 1812, ten years before Fresnel, and that in 1820 he had already taken steps to urge the matter upon the notice of a too deliberate officialism? Many excellent woodcuts adorn the pages of the work of MM. Alglave and Boulard, which will doubtless make it a welcome book for many a library table where popular science is in request.
La Lumière Électrique, son Histoire, sa, Production, et son Emploi.
Par Em. Alglave J. Boulard. (Paris: Firmin-Didot et Cie., 1882.)
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