THIS volume of 422 pp. octavo is the first laboratory book on the established lines of Huxley and Martin's “Elementary Biology” which has reached us from the New World. It, however, excels that in scope, owing to the introduction of additional types of both plants and animals—the Starfish, Locust, Sponges, Rockweed (Fucus), Liverwort, and Water-silk (Spirogyra) being among those dealt with. The work embodies the results of seven years' experience in practical teaching; but, that notwithstanding, it bears at every turn the impress of the recognised English treatises of its kind, and to these the author, unlike certain writers nearer home, manfully acknowledges his indebtedness. The book opens with an introduction, dealing with instruction in manipulation and the use of instruments, and closes with an appendix, giving lists of and recipes for reagents, and there are added a bibliography of works of reference and a very good glossary-index. The bulk of the volume is subdivided into three parts dealing in succession with the Biology (1) of the Cell, (2) of the Animal, and (3) of the Plant, elementary experimental physiology and the study of habit receiving adequate attention. Such novelty as is claimed for the work is born of its author's conviction that “the methods of teaching now in vogue for elementary classes are methods of instruction rather than of education” (!) and he sets himself to overcome this imaginary defect of what he terms the “verification method” by the introduction of questions, as opposed to the more diadactic statement of facts customarily resorted to. Up to a certain point this may be all very well. For example, in dealing with the Protozoa, with which and the analysis of simple cell structure the author's course commences, the student, being told how to capture and mount his sample, is asked, “How many different shapes can you distinguish?” “What variations in size?” “In color?” and other questions of like order; but when there follow these (on p. 5 of the work), “How do these animals eat?” “Digest their food?” “Breathe?” (sic) we confess to a feeling of sympathy with the befuddled beginner. And when, further, after an altogether insufficient preamble and at the outset of his inquiry into the wide domain of biology, the tyro is asked, of the Amœba, “Is the process [of fission] preceded by sexual union?” “How is one sex distinguished from the other?” and, à propos of the cerebral hemispheres of the frog, “Why are they called hemispheres?” one's sympathy gives place to pity for the student thus led astray. We entirely disagree with the author's dictum that sooner or later the student will have to learn to use the microscope, and it matters little when he does so; and we further doubt the advisability of his interrogatory method, when “the questions usually apply equally well to several related forms,” particular species being said to be “not required.” A training in elementary biology is one in manipulation in a field beset with snares and pitfalls, rendering it a primary necessity to teach the beginner what to leave unconsidered. However, the experiment, while not altogether new, is an interesting one; the book is carefully compiled, and we await with interest the verdict of time upon the system which it advocates.
Introduction to Elementary Practical Biology.
By C. W. Dodge, Professor of Biology in the University of Rochester, U.S.A. (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1894.)
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