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Dr. Draper and the North American Review.
We were surprised at an assault in the last number of the North American Review, upon Dr. Draper's book "on the Organization of Plants." the criticism is characterized by that degree of unceremonious rudeness which fortunately is not very customary among scientific men. This book was printed under circumstances at once creditable to its author, and to the science of our country. It consists of a collection of memoirs, which have been separately published during the last ten years, in our own and European journals. They have been discussed, translated, reprinted, and revised at various times; and are now to be found in almost every European language. Thus, the Edinburgh Review, speaking of some portions of them, a year ago, says, "There are three philosophers, Sir John Herschel, Dr. Draper, of New-York, and Professor Moser, of Konigsburg, who have applied the photographic process with such distinguished success to the advancement of optical science, that it would be unpardonable to withhold from our scientific readers an account of their discoveries; even were they less important and of less popular character than they are." It then proceeds to give an account of the leading optical facts contained in this volume. This review is understood to have been written by Sir David Brewster. It appears, also, from the American Journal of the Medical Sciences for May 1836, (p. 268,) that another portion of this book was published at the instance of the Medical faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, "as a mark of the estimation in which they held it. A third portion, consisting of nearly half the volume, has been printed in the 'London Philosophical Magazine,' the leading English scientific journal. From this translations have been made of various parts; some have been inserted in the 'Annales de Chimie,' the organ of the Academy of France; others reprinted in the 'Bibliotheque Universelle de Geneve;' others translated into Poggendorf's Annalen published in Berlin. As proof of the consideration in which these memoirs are held, portions of them have formed the basis of some of the most modern physical theories; thus Professor Moser of Konigsburg avowedly founds his doctrine of vision -- which excited so much interest a few years ago, when introduced before the British Association -- on experiments contained in the book. Professor Poggendorf gives others of them as a final authority in the controversy about Faraday's theory of the Voltaic battery. The most ancient philosophers have criticised and disgussed [[discussed]] the original views brought forward. Sir J. Herschel, a year ago, in the London Philosophical Magazine, published a long examination of some of the experiments; and Bequerel read a memoir before the Institute of France on the same points. These are the experiments, which, with an amusing simplicity, the North American gives us to understand are to be found in any of our schoolbooks.
We might go on with this statement, but we don't believe that any scientific book has ever been published in America, on which the opinions of the most competent existing authorities had been so fully and favorably expressed. We fear that Dr. Draper is justified in the observation he is said to have made, when the Review was shown him, "That it was too bad that the editor of the North American had caused his book to be reviewed by a person so grossly ignorant of the mere elements of chemistry, as to assert "the oils and resins consist of carbon and hydrogen only." It is a well-known fact that the resins are oxides, and most of the oils contain oxygen.
Should such an article appear in the London Foreign Quarterly, or in any of those journals which systematically abuse everything that comes from America, we could at once appreciate the motive. But after the highest scientific authorities in London, Paris, Edinburgh, Berlin, Geneva, had spoken of this work so well, and treated it with such consideration, we confess we are astonished at the North American! A coarse allusion to "medical students" leads us to suspect, that there has entered into the affair something connected with the rivalries of medical colleges; or, perhaps, what is worse, the gratification of some impure personal feeling. However that may be, the North American Review stands charged with "gross ignorance" by a pretty competent authority; and it behoves [[behooves]] the editor, if he means hereafter to criticise scientific books, to extricate himself from that charge.
[This item was attributed to Poe by Hull as,"I have no doubt that this article is Poe's. Willis would not have adopted, I think, so stern a tone; nor does the crack at English magazines seem consistent with him." In his notes at the University of Iowa, T. O. Mabbott seems to reject the review, saying, "nothing highly characteristic found . . . Omit."]
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