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[Book Reviews]

Nature volume 50, page 221 | Download Citation



STUDENTS of science are usually inspired with the desire to create in others an enthusiasm for the pursuit of natural knowledge. This fact probably explains why so many books of mediocre quality are foisted upon the public. Lady Isabel Margesson, who has edited the book under review, had the laudable ambition of “putting before the Beginner a clue to the many paths of the somewhat bewildering labyrinth called Natural Science.” To carry out her idea, she procured persons to write short descriptions which could be used as finger-posts pointing the way to the acquisition of knowledge concerning all manner of living things, of minerals, &c, and, to the whole, Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff has contributed an introduction, in which he expatiates upon the book's inception and the qualifications of the authors of the various parts. Lady Isabel's plan may appear excellent in the abstract, but its realisation is not deserving of much praise. We venture to say that there is scarcely a section in the book exactly meeting the requirements of beginners. Scientific names are frequently given without any explanation, and the beginner is led into the maze of botanical nomenclature before he is told how to disguish the parts of plants. One or two of the authors have confined themselves to describing the spirit in which their branches of natural science should be wooed in order to be won; others give descriptive lists of books suitable for sequential reading; while a third section devote their space to methods of work. When fourteen writers assist in making a book, inequality may be confidently expected. Thus it is that Lady Isabel's idea has not crystallised into a very symmetrical form.

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