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Marvels of Pond-life A Year's Microscopic Recreations   By:

Marvels of Pond-life A Year's Microscopic Recreations by Henry J. Slack

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MARVELS OF POND LIFE

OR,

A YEAR'S MICROSCOPIC RECREATIONS

AMONG THE POLYPS, INFUSORIA, ROTIFERS, WATER BEARS, AND POLYZOA.

BY HENRY J. SLACK, F.G.S., SECRETARY TO THE ROYAL MICROSCOPICAL SOCIETY;

AUTHOR OF 'THE PHILOSOPHY OF PROGRESS IN HUMAN AFFAIRS,' ETC. ETC.

SECOND EDITION.

ILLUSTRATED WITH COLOURED PLATES AND NUMEROUS WOOD ENGRAVINGS.

LONDON: GROOMBRIDGE AND SONS, 5, PATERNOSTER ROW. MDCCCLXXI.

PRINTED BY J. E. ADLARD, BARTHOLOMEW CLOSE.

INTRODUCTION.

As this little book is intended to be no more than an introduction to an agreeable branch of microscopical study, it is to be hoped it will not require a formal preface; but a few words may be convenient to indicate its scope and purpose.

The common experience of all microscopists confirms the assertion made by Dr. Goring, that the most fascinating objects are living creatures of sufficient dimensions to be easily understood with moderate magnification; and in no way can objects of this description be so readily obtained, as by devoting an occasional hour to the examination of the little ponds which are accessible from almost any situation. A complete volume of pond lore would not only be a bulky book much bigger than the aldermanic tomes which it is the fashion to call "Manuals," although the great stone fists in the British Museum would be required to grasp them comfortably, but its composition would overtask all the philosophers of our day. In good truth, a tea spoonful of water from a prolific locality often contains a variety of living forms, every one of which demands a profound and patient study, if we would know but a few things concerning it.

To man, then, is a vast and a minute. Our minds ache at the contemplation of astronomical immensities, and we are apt to see the boundless only in prodigious masses, countless numbers, and immeasurable spaces. The Creative Mind knows no such limitations; and the microscope shows us that, whether the field of nature's operation be what to our apprehension is great or small, there is no limit to the exhibition of marvellous skill. If the "undevout astronomer" be "mad," the undevout microscopist must be still more so, for if the matter be judged by human sense, the skill is greater as the operation is more minute; and not the sun itself, nor the central orb round which he revolves, with all his attendant worlds, can furnish sublimer objects of contemplation, than the miraculous assemblage of forces which make up the life of the smallest creature that the microscope reveals.

There is an irresistible charm in the effort to trace beginnings in nature. We know that we can never succeed; that each discovery, which conducts back towards some elementary law or principle, only indicates how much still lies behind it: but the geologist nevertheless loves to search out the first or oldest traces of life upon our globe; and so the microscopist delights to view the simplest exhibitions of structures and faculties, which reach their completion in the frame and mind of man. That one great plan runs through the whole universe is now an universally accepted truth, and when applied to physiology and natural history, it leads to most important results.

The researches of recent philosophers have shown us that nature cannot be understood by studying the parts of animals with reference merely to their utility in the economy of the creature to which they belong. We do, indeed, find an admirable correspondence between structures and the services they perform; but every object in creation, and every part of it, is in harmonious relation to some grand design, and exhibits a conformity to some general mode of operation, or some general disposition and direction of forces, which secures the existence of the individual or the species, and at the same time works out the most majestic schemes... Continue reading book >>




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