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Geographical Botany, respecting the conditions of life to which high alpine plants are subjected.
Regarded only as an object of physical inquiry, it is clear that the only observations 'which can be considered in any degree comparable are those made in dry soil, and this condition is so seldom fulfilled, that comparatively few observations have been obtained. Some made by the writer, and several others communicated by Mr. A. T. Malkin, but apparently not made in quite dry soil, agree in showing that in the higher regions of the Alps, approaching to and above what is commonly called the limit of perpetual snow, the plants and animals that dwell on the surfaco of the soil must, during the short period of their active vitality, receivo an amount of heat much larger than has commonly been supposed. The annexed Table (II.), although too limited to furnish general results, may be worth preserving as evidence upon this point.
Report of the Committee for Dredging on the North and East Coasts of Scotland. By J. Gwyn Jeffreys, F.R.S.
The Marine Invortebrata enumerated in the following list were found by Mr. Robert Dawson on that part of the coast of Aberdeenshire which extends from the mouth of the Ythan to the mouth of the Ugie. The distance in a straight line is about 15 miles. The whole of this coast, with the exception of the sands of Forvio and the little bays of Peterhead and Cruden, consists of precipitous granite and gneiss rocks.
The sea-bed appears to slope gently and regularly from the shore for 10 or 12 miles, the only exception to this uniformity being a ravine (or Hole as it is called by the fishermen) opposite to Slains Castle. This ravine commences about half a mile from the shore, and stretches out at right angles to the land, the depth varying from 25 fathoms to 35 fathoms.
The Laminarian zone, which, except about Peterhead, is very narrow, is succeeded by a belt of pure white sand, extending in breadth to the 30-fathom line from 3 to 4 miles from the shore. This sand has.in general been very unproductive, but in the ravine just mentioned many of the rarest species have been got.
Dredging may be said to have begun at 30 fathoms, and extended over the Coralline zone till it attains a depth of 90 fathoms. On one occasion the dredge was used in 60 fathoms, at a distance of 15 or 16 miles from shore. Two of the species enumerated in the list were brought up by a fisherman's line 30 miles from land (viz. Trophon scalariformis and Pinna pectinata).
The following abstract shows the number of Mollusca identified:—
Gasteropoda Prosobranchiata 110
Conchifera Lamellibranchiata 92
. Of this number the following are Arctic and probably fossil, viz. Trophon scalariformis, T. Ounneri, Astyris Holbbllii, Scalaria Eschrichti, Natica clausa and hclicoides, Margarita cinerea, Skenea? costulata, Adeorbis subcarinata, Lepeta coxa, Astarte arctica and elliptka, Tellina proximo., Scrobicidaria piperata, My a truncata, Saxicava rugosa, and Hypothyris psittacea, besides the Pecten islandicus, which is not unfrequently dredged.
Some of these fossil shells have been found in almost every haul of the dredge, as Astarte elliptica, TeHina proximo,, Pecten islandicus, and Saxicava rugosa.
All the others, with the exception of Scrobicularia piperata, have been found in three different spots, viz. the Hole, before mentioned, opposite the mouth of the Ythan, 6 miles from land, in 40 fathoms, and opposite the mouth of the Ugie, 6 miles from land, in 35 fathoms,—that is, exactly at each extremity, and in the middle of the space which has been dredged over by Mr. Dawson.
But although the fossil species found appear to be principally confined to the three spots indicated, yet the presence of some of them wherever the dredge has been used tends to prove that a tertiary bed extends along the whole coast and to a great distance seaward, some of these fossils having been brought up 30 miles from land by the fishermen's lines. Of the 17 apparently fossil species enumerated, 10 have been found in a decidedly fossil state in the drift clay in different parts of the county *. These are—
Trophon scalariformis at Belhelvie, near tho sea.
Natica clausa at King Edward, several miles from sea,
helicoides at King Edward, ditto.
Astarte arctica various places.
Tellina proxinia ditto.
Scrobicularia piperata raised beach at Ythan Mouth.
Mya truncata King Edward.
Saxicava rugosa Belhelvie, &a.
Pecten islandicus ditto.
Of species usually accounted rare, district, viz.:—
the following are rather common in this
Eulimella Scillte. acicula.
There are a few species enumerated by Dr. Gordon in his ' List of the Mollusca of the Moray Firth' which do not appear to have been found by Mr. Dawson; the late Prof. Macgillivray also, in his ' Mollusca of Aberdeenshire,' records some which Mr. Dawson has not met with.
Note mi Boloceba Eqotes.
Dredged off Peterhead in 35 fathoms on June 20, 1862, and still alive.
Base.—As described by Mr. Gosse in his 'Actinologia Britannica.'
Column.—Upper half covered with longitudinal rows of close-set warts, in ordinary circumstances not minute, but very variable in size at the pleasure of tho animal.
Disk.—As described in 'Act. Brit.'
Tentacles.—Arranged as described in • Act. Brit.,' but several of them having double points, and thus causing their number to appear to be 150 or upwards. They are extremely variable in shape, being sometimes contracted to a mere thread, and at other times distended till they are almost globulaj.
* Mr. Jamieson of Ellon supplied Mr. Dawson with this list of fossils. lie has specimens of many other Arctic shells from the same beds, but these are either still alive in the district, or have not been found with the dredge.
The apex appears to be more truncate than that described and figured by Mr. Gosse.
Mouth.—As described in 'Act. Brit.'
Column.—Straw-colour; stria; nearly white; warts, when fully expanded, white, with a pellucid spot in the centre.
Disk.—General colour similar to that of the column, radiated with white stria?, with conspicuous radiating deep-red bands arising from a point within each inner tentacle, and passing in pairs round the tentacles, exactly as in Tealia crassicornis.
Tentacles.—Pellucid white; a broad magenta ring near the apex, gradually shading into pellucid white above the middle, and succeeded by an opake white band.
Height of column, 2 inches.
Length of tentacles, when fully expanded, 5 inches.
This specimen is still (Sept. 17, 1862) in full health and beauty; it has lost, however, a little of the brilliancy of the magenta or purplish colour on the tentacles. On some occasions it has slightly shifted its base on the stone to which it adheres, and after a few days moved back to its former site.
In presenting this Report, Mr. Jeffreys observed that its most peculiar and interesting feature was the discovery of so many Arctic species of shells in a fossil state, mixed with recent shells of other species. He accounted for this assemblage of fossil and recent shells in the same spot by supposing that towards the close of the glacial epoch the sea-bed containing these arctic shells was gradually upheaved and became dry land, so as to exterminate the breed, and that subsequently the bed was submerged and inhabited by other species, which had either migrated from the south, or were diffused in course of time over the present area of the German Ocean. Such a state of things would imply very long periods of elevation and subsidence.
Report of the Committee, consisting of the Rev. W. Vernon Harcotjrt, Right Hon. Joseph Napier, Mr. Tite, M.P., Professor Christison, Mr. J. Heywood, Mr. J. F. Bateman, Mr. T. Webster, on Technical and Scientific Evidence in Courts of Law.
"writeks on legal evidence have frequently animadverted on the testimony of professional witnesses in a Court of Justice as being contradictory and unreliable, in a degree which materially diminishes its value; nor is it denied among the candid members of more than one profession that greater contrarieties of opinion on technical and scientific subjects appear in the witness box than can be satisfactorily accounted for, or than would bo likely to arise anywhere else.
Tho effect of such contradictions is not only to leave doubts on many important issues which art and science might well have decided, but to lower the authority and credit of all that class of evidence to such a point, that it has even been proposed very recently to dispense with it altogether in some cases which seem most to require the light that it might afford.
The principal cause which has thus shaken the credit of professional testimony is to be found, not in those differences of judgment which we might reasonably expect when we view it as a species of evidence embracing inferences as well as facts, but rather in the anomalous practice of engaging technical and scientific witnesses e.r parte, to prove a case on cither side.
In vindication of such a practice, it may be said that there is no other method by which the truth can be so well elicited, and justice therefore so well administered. As the arguments of counsel ex parte for their respective clients bring out before the judge and jury all that can.be alleged on either side in point of reasoning, so may the facts adduced in the same manner by professional witnesses be considered as giving a more complete view of the data for determining a question than if they were sought by an indifferent inquirer.
This statement might be accepted as satisfactory, if professional witnesses were engaged to investigate facte only; but they are engaged also to deliver opinions; and opinion, even in conscientious minds, is prone to follow the side which it is employed to support; whilst less scrupulous witnesses are induced by the position in which they arc placed to utter opinions different from those which they have been known to deliver on the same points under other circumstances.
The evil of such a state of things is undeniably great, not only as regards the credit of honourable professions, but the public administration of the law; for questions of importance arc thus tried under the double disadvantage of testimony which can be only partially trusted, and juries who are incompetent to sift it, because relating to subjects with which they are little acquainted. Nor are these questions of rare occurrence; t( clinical evidence has of late been greatly extended, in proportion to the rapid progress of the arts; and it must be remembered that it comprehends trades as well as professions, including all cases in which experts are called in to speak to facts or inferences of which persons inexperienced in the trade or profession are incapable of judging. So numerous and important have these cases become, that the evidence which affects them cannot but be considered as having gained such a place in our jurisprudence as to demand a careful revision of its very serious defects.
For some years past, various schemes of alteration in the existing practice of the courts have been suggested. In a lecture delivered by Dr. Christison before the Edinburgh College of Physicians in 1851, and in papers read by Dr. Angus Smith in 1857 and subsequent years before various societies, the whole subject has been ably discussed; the attention of several legal and judicial authorities has also been drawn to it by Mr. Harcourt; and the Committee consider themselves as having gained sufficient information to perform the duty entrusted to them by the Association of "suggesting improvements in the present practice respecting scientific evidence as taken in Courts of Law."
Any attempt to supersede the existing system, as respects the liberty of each party in a suit to obtain evidence for its own case on technical questions, whether of fact or opinion, the Committee would regard as impracticable. But they are of opinion that such checks on ex parte evidence might bo introduced with advantage as would counteract some of its injurious tendencies, and would lead, in a conflict of opinions, to a better judgment on the merits of the case.
In days less scientific than the present thero were questions of great importance in a maritime country, the just decision of which required more technical knowledge than any ordinary jury could be supposed to possess. It has long been allowed therefore to transfer cases which would have been blindly determined by persons possessing no nautical skill, from the ordinary tribunals to a judge assisted by a certain number of Masters of the Trinity House, before whom the evidence is given.
The result of all the inquiries which the Committee have been enabled to make is, that there will be found no method of correcting the present practice in the trial of intricate scientific questions, so little open to exception as one that should be founded on tho principle thus already adopted in questions of navigation.
There is reason to believe that opinions in evidence stated before a Court capable of appreciating them would be given with a greater measure of care and a more prudent reserve, and that a judge assisted by assessors who (being themselves experts) fully understood the technical value of tho evidence, would deliver a judgment more founded in reason and accordant with justice than can ever be obtained from the present tribunals.
Tho Committee would therefore propose that, by a legislative act, judges should be empowered, on application from a suitor, in causes of s technical character, to convene skilled assessors, the number of whom should not exceed three, and who should give their opinions truly on the statements of the witnesses, in such manner as they shall be required by the judge, previous to his adjudication of the cause.
A Court constituted as is here proposed might sec a necessity in some cases for independent evidence of the facts on which either party relied. The allowing the judge to call ill witnesses independent of tho parties in such cases, as is done on various occasions by Courts of Chancery and by Parliamentary Committees, is a measure which has been suggested by a high judicial authority, and would, in the opinion of the Committee, be a valuable supplement to the preceding provision.
In recommending these changes, the Committee have had in view the evidence given in civil causes: in criminal cases the opinions of witnesses are ar less affected by partisan feelings. There may be a few instances, however, in which it might serve the interests of public justice that the judge should have power to direct an issue to be tried by a Court constituted on the principles here proposed. But the defect of the scientific evidence in criminal causes chiefly consists in want of competence on the part of the witnesses: questions, for instance, of secret poisoning sometimes hang on the judgment of a practitioner or analyst of insufficient experience. The remedy for this deficiency is indeed understood to be virtually in tho hands of the magistracy, since tho Government authorities never refuse to select proper persons for the investigation of cases in which the Crown is concerned; but the Committee arc of opinion that it would be an important improvement on the present practice, if the magistrates were advised that application should bo made by them for the appointment of such competent persons by the Crown in every case requiring accurate scientific investigation.
If the recommendations contained in this lteport should be approved by the Association, the Committee would advise that they should be laid before the Secretary of State for the Homo Department, with an application for his concurrence in carrying them into effect, and that the Parliamentary Committee of the Association should be requested to support the application, and to promote any Bill in Parliament which may be founded on the foregoing principles.