Imágenes de páginas

Celsius. After confirming the accounts given by Von Buch, of the occurrence, on the side of the ocean, of elevated beds of recent shells at various heights, from 10 to 200 feet, Mr. Lyell discovered, in addition, deposits on the side of the Bothnian Gulf, between Stockholm and Gefle, containing fossil shells of the same species which now characterize the brackish waters of that sea. These occur at various elevations, of from 1 to 100 feet, and sometimes reach fifty miles inland. The shells are partly marine and partly fluviatile: the marine species are identical with those now living in the ocean, but are dwarfish in size, and never attain the average dimensions of those which live in waters sufficiently salt to enable them to reach their full developement. Mr. Lyell concludes, in general, that certain parts of Sweden are undergoing a gradual rise, to the amount of two or three feet in a century, while other parts, visited by him, further to the south, appear to experience no movement.

All these facts have an extremely valuable bearing on geological theories. The fact that a slow, and imperceptibly gradual rise, is now taking place in one large district of the earth, whilst a sinking has been also going on in another, afford us the strong ground of observed facts for admitting, as a true philosophical cause, the like slow, gradual, elevation of land out of the sea, in other cases and in earlier epochs. To account for the actual appearances of strata, now hundreds or thousands of feet above the sea, containing beds of marine shells and animal remains, we require nothing but a repetition, or rather constant succession, of such events as are now going on in Sweden and Greenland, to account for all those level, or but slightly inclined depositions, which, to so vast an extent, have contributed to form our existing continents. And where is the slightest ground of probability for supposing these changes to have gone on at a more rapid rate formerly than now?

And if we form anything like the roughest calculation, what length of time shall we assign for the elevation of any one, even of the superficial and most recent formations?

But the effects of earthquake waves is a subject not less worthy of consideration. Some geologists have contended that the sudden elevation of mountain chains, by volcanic forces, of whose intensity nothing, in the present degenerate condition of the globe, can convey any idea, caused mighty waves, deluging, at one sweep, vast regions of the earth, and accounting for numerous phenomena, which those of another school attribute to the action of ordinary causes, acting through immensely long periods of time. These earthquake waves give us an idea of the extent to which such causes can act under the influence of volcanic forces, of the highest intensity of any within human experience; i. e., capable of ducing local inroads, on particular coasts, to an extent absolutely insensible compared with those which must be imagined in order to account in this way for geological phenomena. We may then calculate, in some degree, what enormous intensity must be supposed in an earthquake, to cause an inundation of any considerable tract of country. Further, we must own, we find it impossible to conceive how the upheaving of a mountain, from the bottom of the sea, supposing it merely to ascend uniformly and steadily, could produce any wave at all. It seems to us solely the trembling motion and rapid shock of the earthquake, which produces the wave.

FLAMSTEED, NEWTON, AND HALLEY. The names of these great contemporary luminaries of British Science arc familiar to all: but of the first, except in general that he was the father and founder of practical Astronomy in this country, very little has been hitherto known. His labours, indeed, the Catalogue of the Stars, and other observations contained in the Historia Cælestis, . have been long celebrated; but of the history and character of their author, or the very singular circumstances of their publication, hardly anything had been known until within the last few years, when that able and zealous astronomer, Mr. Baily, not only searched out a mass of original records, in the library of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, including Flamsteed's private diaries, but also fortunately discovered an extensive correspondence between Flamsteed and his friends and coadjutors, Messrs. Sharp and Crossthwait. On these materials, Mr. Baily has founded an able memoir, which, together with the original documents, a corrected edition of the Catalogue, and some other subsidiary matter, have been, under his superintendence, printed at the public expense, by direction of the Lords of the Admiralty, in a handsome quarto volume; all the copies of which have been gratuitously distributed among scientific bodies and individuals.

The volume is replete with interest; not merely to the astronomer, but to every one for whom the history of Science possesses any attractions; and, indeed, to all who delight in studying the human character in its strength and its weakness. The subject, as might be expected, has attracted much notice.

The narrative disclosed by Mr. Baily, exhibits Flamsteed in continued intercourse with Newton and Halley. But under such circumstances as, according to the testimony here adduced, tend to place the characters of the two last in an extremely unfavourable light; in fact, to

them imputations of motives of the most discreditable, and conduct of the most dishonest kind. At least, as far as Newton is concerned, these charges are as new as they are painful to contemplate, since from all representations hitherto given, his character has always been esteemed one of even unusual moral excellence. Hence, the statements of Flamsteed have been received with mingled surprise and regret.

In the Quarterly Review, No. CIX., an article appeared on the subject, which we must confess we read with an almost unmixed feeling of disappointment, at the total want of anything like a comprehensive discussion or elucidation of so interesting a question.

In addition to the public interest which everything relating to Newton must inspire, it was to be expected that a strong feeling would prevail on the subject in his own university; and, accordingly, Mr. Whewell has taken up the question in a very able though short pamphlet, in which he enters upon Newton's vindication, especially against the Quarterly reviewer, with equal skill and candour. In the succeeding number of the Quarterly a note was inserted reflecting on Mr. Whewell's observations; to which that gentleman has printed a reply in the Cambridge Chronicle of February 5th*.

* Mr. Whewell has since reprinted his pamphlet with this letter appended, together with another referring to a separate point of accusation.

cast upon

An article in the Edinburgh Reviem, No. CXXVI., is in every way of a much higher stamp. But the writer, though much more able in his discrimination of character than his contemporary, yet to our apprehension leaves much to be done in the explanation of the conduct of the respective parties, on something like reasonable ground.

The narrative of their proceedings and differences, their violent animosities and protracted hostilities, is not a mere history of personal squabbles, but is deeply interesting as connected with the characters of the most eminent men of science whom this country has produced; and embraces an important portion of the history of astronomy. Mr. Baily has conducted his valuable publication in a luminous, scientific, and straightforward manner: but he enters little into any discussion tending to clear up the difficulties of the case, or to explain the singular position in which we find the parties: it was, in fact, no part of his design to do so; he discharges the duty merely of the unbiassed editor; who, indeed, brings to light a vast number of new documents and facts, the tendency of which is to impugn the character of highly eminent persons; but he appears neither in the capacity of accuser nor defender. The impression left by a perusal of the volume, as it consists of Flamsteed's own statements and those of his friends, is, of course, on his side. Our object will be, in the following remarks, to give a brief and impartial sketch of the outline of the history here presented to us, accompanied by such remarks as, upon a careful comparison of what has been urged on both sides, seem to us to afford at least some clue to the explanation of the circuinstances.

John Flamsteed was born near Derby, August 19, 1646, and received the rudiments of his education at the Grammar-School in that town: he appears to have been of a sickly constitution, and during his youth had some severe attacks of illness.

Throughout his life he was more or less a sufferer from constitutional complaints, which were certainly not alleviated by his intensely studious habits, nor by the laborious prosecution of astronomical observations in which he was occupied incessantly during the greatest portion of his life. This circumstance should be borne in mind as elucidating and palliating many instances of a corresponding infirmity of temper, which the narrative discloses.

While quite a youth, Flamsteed displayed a decided turn for mathematical and astronomical pursuits. He was wholly self-taught in these sciences, and followed up his inquiries as the amusement of hours of illhealth and seclusion. He formed acquaintance with some young men who followed similar pursuits, and composed mathematical tracts on dialling, trigonometry, and the equation of time. He also calculated tables of the places of the stars, on the basis of those of Tycho Brahe; and made an accurate observation of an eclipse of the sun. advanced to the prediction of eclipses; and having calculated one, together with some occultations of stars by the moon, he communicated them to the Royal Society. The excellence of these investigations procured him considerable notice, and encouraging letters from Oldenburgh, the secretary of the society, and Collins, one of the first mathematicians of the day.

Ile shortly after formed a personal acquaintance with these and other eminent men in a visit to London, and especially with Sir Jonas Moore,

He soon

(Surveyor of the Ordnance,) who continued through life one of his most valued friends. This gentleman presented him with some instruments, with which he afterwards continued observations at Derby: but on his return from London he visited Cambridge, where he became acquainted with Barrow and Newton; and entered himself at Jesus College.

We shall not follow him through the details of his astronomical labours, but merely observe that though we have abundant evidence of his limited attainments in the higher and more philosophic branches of science, yet in this particular department he seems to have perceived, as it were by intuition, precisely the right path by which the improvement of astronomy was to be effected: he appears at once to have seen the importance of a much higher degree of accuracy than was at that time commonly aimed at; and to have proceeded with equal skill and resolution to the practice of it in his observations. Yet, of the grand discoveries which soon after were made, even to the end of his life, he had very inadequate conceptions.

To proceed with the sketch of his history,-he kept his terms at Cambridge, without materially interfering with his observations at Derby, or his visits to the metropolis; and obtained the degree of M. A. in 1674. He was ordained soon after, and subsequently presented to the living of Burstow in Surrey. He was much with Sir J. Moore in his official residence in the Tower of London, where he made many observations. But the important event which determined his future course was the erection of the office of Astronomer Royal, the foundation of the Observatory at Greenwich, and his own appointment to it in 1675.

These measures originated in a proposal made by the Sieur de Saint Pierre, for finding the longitude at sea by means of the moon's distances from the fixed stars. In a report upon it laid before Charles the Second, Flamsteed pointed out that the method could not be used owing to the deficiency of the existing tables of the moon's motion. The king, startled at the assertion, said with some warmth,

66 he must have them anew observed, examined, and corrected for the use of his seamen.And on the necessity of accurate observations for this purpose being further intimated, he said, with the same earnestness, “he must have it done.” On being asked who he would find to do it, with his usual readiness Charles at once replied, “the person who has pointed it out,” and Flamsteed was forthwith named Royal Astronomer, with a salary of 1001. per annum, though with promises of necessary instruments and assistance. The building of the Observatory was soon completed; but when settled there Flamsteed began to complain that instruments were not supplied, nor the promised assistance granted him. In his letters and diaries he continually recurs to these grounds of complaint, and the expense he incurred for carrying on the observations. The only instruments he had were some given him by Sir Jonas Moore, and others constructed by himself and his assistant, Sharp, who was equally skilful as a mechanic and a calculator. Yet with the most praiseworthy spirit and zeal he persevered under all discouragements.

At first, he had only a sextant, by which the places of the stars could not be referred to any fixed point. It was not till 1684 that an instrument fixed in the plane of the meridian was erected, called the mural arc. But before this was done, and when he consequently had no means of determining the absolute places of the stars, he was beset with importunities to print his observations. “Some people to make him uneasy, others out of a sincere desire to see the happy process of his studies, not understanding amid what hard circumstances he lived, called hard upon him to print his observations." He explained the reason of his being unable to do so by the facts just stated: he mentioned that he was engaged in preparing a complete catalogue of the stars. This only further excited the expectations of those who little understood the real extent of such a work. He writes (February 1691-2) in a complaining style to Newton, of the annoyance he received by this sort of importunity; and, indirectly, attributes the principal share of it to Halley. He alludes to Halley's having used a dictatorial tone towards him, which he resents in the strongest manner; retorts upon Halley in bitter sarcasms on the imperfections of his published observations; and hints," he has more of mine in his hands already than he will either own or restore; and I have no esteem for a man who has lost his reputation, both for skill, candour, and ingenuity, by silly tricks, ingratitude, and foolish prate; and that I value not all, or any, of the shame of him and his infidel companions."

In 1694, at Newton's urgent request, Flamsteed gave him copies of a number of observations of the moon's places. He understood, that Newton's object was to complete the theory of the moon's motions as derived from gravitation: but seems to have had no notion of what that theory really amounted to. However he gave Newton the observations on two express stipulations ; first, that he should not communicate them to any one without his consent; secondly, that he should be the first informed of any results which Newton might deduce from them.

The first condition, he says, Newton kept, but broke the second, through insinuation, I fear, of some persons, that were little his friends till they saw what friends he had in the government." They continued to correspond on the subject, though Flamsteed, conceiving himself unfairly treated, as the correspondence proceeded, wrote in a tone of increasing coldness and even acrimony. Newton mentions (in October, 1694), that Halley had desired to see the lunar observations, which he refused, on the plea of his promise. And in a subsequent letter, in reply to a suspicion intimated by Flamsteed that he had shown them, he speaks in a tone of the most perfect mildness and conciliation, amounting to a dignified rebuke, to Flamsteed, for entertaining such suspicions, and acknowledging in the highest terms the value of his observations. He adds a request for some more results; these Flamsteed gave, to the number of one hundred more places of the moon, which (he takes care to add) “ was more than he could reasonably expect from one in my circumstances of constant business and ill health ;" enlarging upon all the circumstances in detail. Thus complaining of a request, yet complying with it, seems to have been his way of proceeding throughout. In the present instance, he evidently thought that in all this, he was merely doing a personal favour to Newton. “ He ceased not to importune me (though he was informed of my illness,) for more observations; and with that earnestness, that looked as if he thought he had a right to command them; and had about fifty more imparted to

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »