son was not like to have forgotten who sent him to the

Doubt and Doubtcontrol2023-12-07 13:06:32 63764 52

With the present book we enter the field of the distinctively modern. There is no precise date at which we take up each of the successive stories, but the main sweep of development has to do in each case with the nineteenth century. We shall see at once that this is a time both of rapid progress and of great differentiation. We have heard almost nothing hitherto of such sciences as paleontology, geology, and meteorology, each of which now demands full attention. Meantime, astronomy and what the workers of the elder day called natural philosophy become wonderfully diversified and present numerous phases that would have been startling enough to the star-gazers and philosophers of the earlier epoch.

son was not like to have forgotten who sent him to the

Thus, for example, in the field of astronomy, Herschel is able, thanks to his perfected telescope, to discover a new planet and then to reach out into the depths of space and gain such knowledge of stars and nebulae as hitherto no one had more than dreamed of. Then, in rapid sequence, a whole coterie of hitherto unsuspected minor planets is discovered, stellar distances are measured, some members of the starry galaxy are timed in their flight, the direction of movement of the solar system itself is investigated, the spectroscope reveals the chemical composition even of suns that are unthinkably distant, and a tangible theory is grasped of the universal cycle which includes the birth and death of worlds.

son was not like to have forgotten who sent him to the

Similarly the new studies of the earth's surface reveal secrets of planetary formation hitherto quite inscrutable. It becomes known that the strata of the earth's surface have been forming throughout untold ages, and that successive populations differing utterly from one another have peopled the earth in different geological epochs. The entire point of view of thoughtful men becomes changed in contemplating the history of the world in which we live--albeit the newest thought harks back to some extent to those days when the inspired thinkers of early Greece dreamed out the wonderful theories with which our earlier chapters have made our readers familiar.

son was not like to have forgotten who sent him to the

In the region of natural philosophy progress is no less pronounced and no less striking. It suffices here, however, by way of anticipation, simply to name the greatest generalization of the century in physical science--the doctrine of the conservation of energy.


STRANGELY enough, the decade immediately following Newton was one of comparative barrenness in scientific progress, the early years of the eighteenth century not being as productive of great astronomers as the later years of the seventeenth, or, for that matter, as the later years of the eighteenth century itself. Several of the prominent astronomers of the later seventeenth century lived on into the opening years of the following century, however, and the younger generation soon developed a coterie of astronomers, among whom Euler, Lagrange, Laplace, and Herschel, as we shall see, were to accomplish great things in this field before the century closed.

One of the great seventeenth-century astronomers, who died just before the close of the century, was Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687), of Dantzig, who advanced astronomy by his accurate description of the face and the spots of the moon. But he is remembered also for having retarded progress by his influence in refusing to use telescopic sights in his observations, preferring until his death the plain sights long before discarded by most other astronomers. The advantages of these telescope sights have been discussed under the article treating of Robert Hooke, but no such advantages were ever recognized by Hevelius. So great was Hevelius's reputation as an astronomer that his refusal to recognize the advantage of the telescope sights caused many astronomers to hesitate before accepting them as superior to the plain; and even the famous Halley, of whom we shall speak further in a moment, was sufficiently in doubt over the matter to pay the aged astronomer a visit to test his skill in using the old-style sights. Side by side, Hevelius and Halley made their observations, Hevelius with his old instrument and Halley with the new. The results showed slightly in the younger man's favor, but not enough to make it an entirely convincing demonstration. The explanation of this, however, did not lie in the lack of superiority of the telescopic instrument, but rather in the marvellous skill of the aged Hevelius, whose dexterity almost compensated for the defect of his instrument. What he might have accomplished could he have been induced to adopt the telescope can only be surmised.

Halley himself was by no means a tyro in matters astronomical at that time. As the only son of a wealthy soap-boiler living near London, he had been given a liberal education, and even before leaving college made such novel scientific observations as that of the change in the variation of the compass. At nineteen years of age he discovered a new method of determining the elements of the planetary orbits which was a distinct improvement over the old. The year following he sailed for the Island of St, Helena to make observations of the heavens in the southern hemisphere.



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