Manufacturer and builder Volume (2 tai 3), 1877
Six years ago, Gen. Pleasanton, at that time United States Commissioner of Internal Revenue, read before time Philadelphia Agricultural Society a popes. on the effects of blue light on vegetation and animal life. In that paper he exhibited the most deplorable ignorance of anything pertaining to science, and propounded the most extravagant, preposterous, and absurd theories. We will give only a few paragraphs of the introductory remarks as illustrations, no that any reader who has studied time subject may judge for himself what the opinions of this gentleman may be worth. He says:
"The diamond, about whose origin so much mystery has always existed, is likely the product of decomposition of carbonic acid gas in the higher atmosphere by electricity, liberating the oxygen gas, converting it into ozone, fusing the carbon, and by the intense cold there prevailing, which is of opposite electricity, crystalizing the fused carbon, which is precipitated by its gravity to the earth.
"To the repellent affinity of electricity are we indebted for the expansive force of steam, whose power wields the mighty trip-hammer, propels the ship through the ocean, and draws the train over the land - and to the opposite electricities of the heated steam and the cold water introduced into the boiler to replenish it, do we owe those terrible explosions in steam-boilers whose prevention has hitherto defied human skill. But the most interesting application of electricity is in nature's de-velopment of vegetation. Let as illustrate it:
"The various elements of the soil have different electrical attributes. In a perfectly dry state, no electrical action will occur among them; but let the rain, bringing with it ammonia and carbonic acid, is however minute quantities, from the upper atmosphere, fall upon this alluvial soil, so as to moisten its mass within the influence of light, heat, and air, and plant your seed within it, and what will you observe ? Rapid germination of the seed. Why? The slightly acidulated or, it may be, alkaline water of the rain has formed the medium to excite galvanic currents of electricity in the heterogeneous matter of the alluvial soil—the vitality of time seed is developed, and vegetable life is the result. Hence vegetable life owes its existence to electricity.
"What do you suppose has produced the giant trees of California! Electricity! The mineral richness of California has doubtless maintained for ages a healthful electrical excitement resulting through centuries of undisturbed growth in these vegetable wonders."
It will be seen that Gen. Pleasanton, in order to find philosophical grounds for his illusion, makes time common mistake of all persons who are practically and theoretically unacquainted with electricity and magnetism; if they see a thing that they cannot explain for lack of knowledge, they have recourse to the words electricity and magnetism, which words they think explain everything, no matter what it is.
Coming to time main subject, he says :
"It was announced in England about the beginning of this century, that the red ray of light was heating, the yellow ray was illuminating, and the blue ray in a remarkable degree stimulated the development of vegetable life.
"From this discovery we can imagine the immense influence which the intensely blue color of the sky in the equatorial regions has and always has had in conjunction with the sun's white light, and the heat and moisture of those regions upon the development there of vegetable life.
"This intensely blue color of the sky in the arctic regions may also serve to explain the exuberance of animal life there. It being known that the deeper water of the Arctic Ocean is much warmer than the surface water, which is often frozen, furnishes abundant food for its inhabitants.
"In the arctic waters you have warmth, food, light, and electricity, escaping through the waters into the air, and all stimulating life.
"Whoever has noticed the color of the electric spark in at, mospheric air, from an electrical machine, will readily recognize in likeness of color to the blue color of the sky.
"If experiments should be instituted to ascertain the electrical condition of the sky, as associated with. its blue color, and they should satisfactorily establish the connection, the result would prove to be one of the greatest blessings ever conferred upon mankind. What strength of vitality could be infused into the feeble young, the mature invalid, and the decrepid oc-togenarian! How rapidly might the various races of our do-mestic animals be multiplied, and how much might their in-dividual proportions be enlarged."
We have commented on General Pleasanton's views in our August, October, and November numbers for 1871, (pages 122, 173, and 241,) and we tried there to expose their absurdity, and also the fallacy of all subsequent assertions respecting the vitalizing and healing power of light when passing through blue glass, which were then propounded, and which, alas ! are being now revived, improved upon, and augmented in the most absurd manner. Not only have grape-vines under blue glass given a wonderful yield, and calves and pigs revived and grown fat, but now we hear that mothers who had no natural food for their babies, were blessed with abundance of milk by simply hanging blue curtains before the windows; that young ladies who had lost all their hair, regained in a short time a beautiful crop of long hair by sitting under blue glass, etc. There is indeed scarcely an end to all the absurd stories which Gen. Pleasanton in his, as we trust, honest illusion, palms off upon a credulous public.
According to this, it is to be deplored that the Creator did not consult General Pleasanton when He made the sun, as, according to that gentleman, the sunlight can be improved upon by passing it through blue glass ; now if the sun were more blue than it is we could dispense with that trouble, and have the healing and invigorating effect by nature.
Unfortunately, such vagaries have long since been exploded, as the most extensive and truly scientific experiments (among them those of Beaudemont in France, from 1850 to 1860) have demonstrated that for the production of flowers, fruit, etc., and for vegetable and animal life in general, the pure undiluted and unadulterated sunlight is not only better, but essential and necessary. Every color of the spectrum has its function; for instance, red is the special agent to develop time green coloring matter in plants, etc.
We protest in time name of science against the idea which appears to be becoming prevalent at this time - that science has anything to do with these illusions. Science rejects all this blue glass humbug, and accepts nothing which is not demonstrated in a more conclusive way than by the ridiculous stories in circulation.
N. B. - Gen. Pleasanton has just published a reply to his critics, which we will notice in our next.