April 1967

Race Relations

“The concept of ‘black power’ is an inflammatory one. It was introduced in an atmosphere of militancy (during James Meredith's march through Mississippi last June) and in many quarters it has been equated with violence and riots. The fact is that a form of black power may be absolutely essential. The experience of Negro Americans, supported by numerous historical and psychological studies, suggests that the profound needs of the poorest and most alienated Negroes cannot be met—and that there can therefore be no end to racial unrest—except through the influence of a unified, organized Negro community with genuine political and economic power. The traumatic effects of separation from Africa, slavery and the denial of political and economic opportunities after the abolition of slavery created divisive psychological and social forces in the Negro community. —James P. Comer”

Comer has been a full professor of psychiatry at Yale University since 1975.

April 1917

War Declared

“Occasionally in the great crises of human history it has happened that the whole world, of whatever race, creed or tongue, by common consent, has given ear to the voice of one man. Conspicuous among such occasions will ever be reckoned the joint session of the two branches of Congress, which gathered on the night of April 2nd to learn from the lips of the President of the United States [Woodrow Wilson] why it was that the great republic, of which he is the executive head, was compelled to declare that a state of war existed between itself and the greatest military autocracy of all time. Particularly acceptable to the American people is that portion of the President's address in which he makes it clear that we enter, not as a struggle against the German people, but against that military clique which has led them, deluded and unsuspecting, into a war of aggression and attempted world conquest.”

Opinion in the U.S. about participation in the war can be sampled in editorials and readers' letters at www.ScientificAmerican.com/apr2017/war-opinions

Reader's Complaint

“For over ten years I have been reading your papers. Especially welcome was your impartiality in all matters, scientific and political alike—until the outbreak of the European war. Unfortunately you appear to believe that your articles must be tinged with sympathy for the Allies, since the greater part of your readers presumably consist of persons born in these countries. Or is it to be inferred that Wall Street and the munitions makers exercise, through your patent department, an influence upon the color of your pages?” Scientific American's editors replied in 1917: “The above communication comes from Mexico, and was written in faultless German. As a sample of Teutonic thought and argument it should take a leading rank.”

Tractor Treads

“It was over four years ago that the first attempt was made to apply the principle of the ball bearing to the endless tread of a tractor. For some three years the ball-tread tractor has been made commercially—ample evidence of the practicability of the invention. The advantage of a track of this kind consists in reduction of friction. Experiments were conducted by the College of Agriculture of the University of California [see illustration].”

April 1867

Cause of Milk Sickness

“This pernicious affection of domestic animals is sufficiently mysterious and important to have induced the Legislature of Illinois, some years since, to vote a handsome reward to anyone who should discover its cause. The Medical and Surgical Reporter gives information from three separate observers (one quoted from the Missouri Republican) tending to throw the responsibility upon a common and hitherto unsuspected plant, Eupatorium Ageratoidis (white snake root). Mr. Wm. Jerry, of Edwardsville, Ill., in June of 1860, gathered the plant by mistake for the nettle, and (alone) partook of it as boiled greens. On the next day he was suddenly seized with the usual symptoms of milk sickness, violent trembling, prostration and faintness, and a fevered state of the stomach. When in bloom, animals are said to like it.”

The toxin tremetol from the white snakeroot plant (now called Ageratina altissima)—largely responsible for milk sickness—was not formally identified in a laboratory until 1928.