Imagens das páginas

ligious works; Izaak Walton, the mild-tempered angler and biographer; Sir William Temple, the lively, agreeable, and well-informed essayist and memoirist; and many others might be enumerated, if it were our object to compile a catalogue instead of noticing only the principal lights of our literature. PROGRESS OF SCIENCE IN ENGLAND BEFORE THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY. A few far separated names, and a still smaller number of distinct facts, make up the history of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences in England to the latter part of the fifteenth century. Nor from that date to the age of Bacon, or throughout the era of the Tudors, have we perhaps so many as a dozen English names of any note to show in this department. Yet before the end of the sixteenth century scientific speculation and experiment were busy in all the principal countries of continental Europe, and the first steps in the march of discovery had already been taken in various directions. In pure science, Trigonometry, of which the foundations had been laid in the middle ages by the Arabian geometers, had been brought almost to the state in which it still remains by Purbach and his much more illustrious pupil John Müller (Regiomontanus); Müller had also created a new arithmetic by the invention of Decimal Fractions: Algebra, known in its elements since the beginning of the thirteenth century, had been carried to the length of cubic equations by Ferreo, Tartalea, and Cardan, and of biquadratic by Cardan's pupil, Ludovico Ferrari, and had acquired all the generalization of expression it yet possesses in the hands first of Stifel, and soon after of Vieta. The true System of the Universe had been revealed by

Copernicus; and Tycho Brahe, although rejecting the hypothesis of his predecessor, as well as clinging to the old superstitions of astrology, had both wonderfully improved the instruments and the art of observation, and had greatly enlarged our knowledge of the heavens. The Variation of the Compass had been observed by Columbus; in Mechanics, the theory of the inclined plane had been investigated by Cardan, the pulley had been explained by Ubaldi, and some cases of the composition of forces, and other propositions in statics, had been solved by Stevinus; in Optics, the use of spectacles, which can be traced back to the early part of the fourteenth century, had been followed by the discovery of the crystalline lens of the eye-by Maurolico, and the invention of the camera obscura by Baptista della Porta. The purely physical sciences had also made considerable advances. Mondino of Bologna, who has been called the father of modern Anatomy, had set the example of the practice of dissection so early as the year 1315; and the knowledge of the structure of the human body, and of its functions, had been prosecuted since his time with great success both in Italy and France by Achillini, Berenger (Carpi), Jacques Dubois (Silvius), Charles Etienne (Stephanus), and especially by Vesalius, Fallopius, and Eustachius, whose celebrated Anatomical Tables, completed in 1552, were still the most perfect that had yet been produced when they were first published more than a century and a half after the author's death. In Medicine, the Hippocratic method, revived by Nicholas Leonicenus before the end of the fifteenth century, had been cultivated and advanced by Cop, Ruel, Gonthier, Fuchs, and others; and considerable progress had even been made in emancipating the art from authority, and founding a new school on the basis of experience and common sense, or at least independent speculation, by Fernel, Argentier of Turin, and, above all, by the original and enterprising, though unregulated, genius of Paracelsus. Conrad Gesner, Rondelet, and Aldrovandus, by the large additions they had made to the facts collected by Aristotle, Pliny, AElian, and other ancient writers, and by their attempts at classification and system, had more than laid the foundations of modern Zoology. In Botany, Otto Brunfels of Strasburg had published his magnificent Herbarum Eicones, which has been regarded as leading the way in the restoration of the science; the route opened by him had been farther explored by Ruel and Fuchs, already mentioned (the latter the name commemorated in the well-known Fuchsia), by Matthioli, and others; Conrad Gesner had, about the middle of the sixteenth century, not only collected and arranged all the knowledge of his predecessors, but had given a new form to the science by his own discoveries; many accessions to his lists had been contributed by Dodoens (Dodonaeus), Caesalpinus, John and Caspar Bauhin, and especially-by l’Ecluse (Clusius); and before the end of the century the first natural system of plants had been devised and published by Lobel. Finally, Chemistry, in which numerous facts had been long ascertained by Roger Bacon, Geber and the other Arabian physicians, Raymond Lully and the other alchemists, had been cultivated in later times by Basil Valentine (the discoverer of antimony), George Agricola (who first mentions bismuth), and Paracelsus (in whose writings we find the first notice of zinc), and in the hands of Dornaeus, Crol.

lius, and Bartholetus had begun to assume the rudiments of a scientific form ; and the remarkable work of Agricola De Re Metallica, first published in 1546, followed as it was, before the end of the century, by the writings and researches of Ercher, Fachs, and Palissy (the great improver of the manufacture of enamelled pottery), may be said to have already established the science of Mineralogy, and also to have furnished some indications of that of Geology. In England, meanwhile, much of this progress that had been made in other countries probably remained unknown. We have most to boast of in the physical sciences; medicine was both practised and taught on the revived principles of the ancient physicians, in the early part of the sixteenth century, by the learned Linacre, the translator of Galen, the founder of the medical lectureships at Oxford and Cambridge, and the first president of the College of Physicians, which was incorporated by Henry VIII. in 1518; some valuable works on botany and zoology were published in the latter half of the century by William Turner, particularly the earliest English Herbal, the first part of which appeared at London in 1551, the second and third at Cologne in 1562 and 1568; * the north and south poles of the magnet are described by Robert Norman, a writer on navigation, in 1581; and at the head of the modern sciences of navigation and electricity stands the name of Dr. William Gilbert, whose treatise De Magnete, published in 1600, afforded one of the most remarkable specimens that had * Lobel, also, already mentioned, though a Fleming by

birth, spent the latter years of his life in England, where James I. gave him the appointment of royal botanist.

then appeared both of ingenious experimenting and of sound inductive reasoning. To Gilbert is assigned the invention of artificial magnets. In the pure sciences, and those more immediately dependent upon mathematics, we did very little during this period. Cuthbert Tonstall or Tunstall, Bishop of London, and afterwards of Durham, published a Latin Treatise on Arithmetic (De Arte Supputandi) at London, in 1522, which was frequently reprinted abroad in the course of the century. This performance, so far from containing anything new, scarcely attempts even to explain the principles of the old rules and processes which it details and exemplifies; but it has the merit of a simplicity and a freedom from. extraneous matter which were very rare in that age. * From what Tonstall says in the dedication of his book to his friend, Sir Thomas More, it would appear that, like almost every other nation in Europe, we were already possessed of arithmetical manuals in the vernacular tongue, though of a very low order. Of much greater importance were various works produced about the same date, or a little later, by William Recorde, the physician. “He was the first,” says the authority to which we have just referred, “who wrote on arithmetic in English (that is, anything of a higher cast than the works mentioned by Tonstall); the first who wrote on geometry in English; the first who introduced algebra into England; the first who wrote on astronomy and the doctrine of the sphere in English; and, finally, the first Englishman (in all probability) who adopted the system of Coperni* Notices of English Mathematical and Astronomical

writers between the Norman Conquest and the year 1600, in Companion to the Almanac for 1837, p. 30.

« AnteriorContinuar »