Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

again he indignantly asks, “that the sun, much less the moon, being so remote, and whose forcible effects are so little felt by sublunary bodies, should be capable of driving so deep, so large, and so heavy a body as the ocean, which is as powerful to resist through its extreme gravity as all the celestial bodies are potent to move through their extreme lightness? What, because the ocean and the moon move one way, therefore the one must either follow or move the other ? What, can a passion so durable and constant, and so equal, depend upon a violent cause 2 . . . Such fancies are ridiculous, and not to be proposed by any philosopher.” The reason why the greatest height of the waters happens at full moon he conceives to be simply “because the ocean began its course at that instant when the moon after her creation, being placed in opposition to the sun, began hers.”f His own explanation of the cause of the tides is, that they are occasioned in some way or other, which he takes great pains, but not to much purpose, to investigate, by the force of their own gravity periodically drawing the waters of the ocean downward: “the waters,” he says, “take the beginning of their motion underneath not far from the ground, where their being pressed by the great weight of many hundred fathoms of water lying upon them must needs cause a very swift course of waters removing underneath and withdrawing from that of the surface, which is prevented by a swift motion, because it sinks down to that place whence the subjected parts do withdraw themselves; which gives us a reason why the superficial parts of the sea do not flow by many degrees so swift as the subjected ones.”f In another chapter

[ocr errors]

he takes up the question of the relative magnitudes of the earth, the sun, and the other heavenly bodies; setting out by asserting that “the body of the sun is by far exceeded in mole and bigness by the weighty globe” (that is, by this earth). But what he calls his proofs of this proposition need not be inflicted upon the reader.

THE ROYAL SOCIETY. *

Such were the notions in science which prevailed, probably among the generality even of persons of education and reading, in England at the date of the incorporation and first public establishment of the Royal Society. The origin of this institution is traced to about the year 1645, when, on the suggestion of Mr. Theodore Haak, a native of the Palatinate, a number of persons resident in London, who took an interest in what was called the new or experimental philosophy, began to meet together once a week, sometimes at the lodgings of one of their number, Dr. Jonathan Goddard, a physician, in Wood-street, who kept an operator in his house for grinding glasses for telescopes; sometimes at apartments in Cheapside, sometimes in Gresham College or its neighbourhood. Such is the account given by Dr. Birch, on the authority of Dr. John Wallis, the eminent mathematician, who was himself a member of the association thus formed.f Besides Wallis, Haak, and Goddard, it included Dr. Wilkins (afterwards Bishop of Chester, and the author of several curious scientific projects and speculations), Dr. George Ent (the friend of Harvey, and defender of his great discovery), Dr. Glisson, already mentioned, Dr. Christopher Merret, who afterwards distinguished himself by his experimental investigations, Mr. Samuel Foster, professor of astronomy in Gresham College, and several others whose names have not been recorded. “Their business was,” says Birch, “precluding affairs of state and questions of theology, to consider and discuss philosophical subjects, and whatever had any connexion with or relation to them—as physic, anatomy, geometry, astronomy, navigation, statics, magnetism, chemistry, mechanics, and natural experiments, with the state of these studies as then cultivated at home or abroad.” In some letters written in 1646 and 1647 we find the Honourable Robert Boyle, then a very young man, making mention of what he calls “our new Philosophical or Invisible College,” by which he is supposed to mean this association. Wilkins, Wallis, and Goddard were all withdrawn to Oxford by being appointed to offices in the university in the course of the years 1648, 1649, and 1651 ; and by their exertions a society similar to the London one was now established in that city, which was joined by Dr. Seth Ward, then Savilian professor of astronomy, afterwards successively Bishop of Exeter and Salisbury, by Dr. Ralph Bathurst, Dr. Thomas Willis, Dr. (afterwards Sir) William Petty (all physicians), and divers others. The Oxford society met at first in Dr. Petty's lodgings, in the house of an apothecary, whose boxes and phials furnished them with many of the chemical substances they wanted for inspection or experi

* Arch. Philos. Nova, Part ii. p. 417.

f History of the Royal Society of London, 1756; i. 1. Dr. Birch refers to Dr. &li. account of his own Life in the Preface to Hearne's edition of Langtoft's Chronicle, i. 161. What is here called an account of his life is a letter from Wallis to his friend Dr. Thomas Smith,

ment; after Petty went to Ireland in September, 1652, the meetings seem to have been discontinued for some years; but in February, 1658, we find Petty, in a letter from Dublin to Boyle, observing that he had not heard better news than that the club was restored at Oxford; and shortly before that date the members appear to have, in fact, begun to assemble again at Dr. Wilkins's apartments in Wadham College, whence, on the appointment of Wilkins, in September, 1659, to the mastership of Trinity College, Cambridge, they transferred themselves to the lodgings of Mr. Boyle, who had come to Oxford in June, 1654, and continued to reside there till April, 1668. All this while the original London society is believed to have met once or twice a week for the greater part of the year without interruption, those of the members who had removed to Oxford rejoining it whenever they chanced to come up to town. In course of time many of the members of the Oxford club became resident in London; and it is certain that, by the year 1659, the meetings had come to be held pretty regularly in term time at Gresham College every week, either after the Wednesday's lecture on astronomy by Wren, or after the Thursday's on geometry by Mr. Lawrence Rooke, sometimes, perhaps, on both days. Among the members at this time are mentioned Lord Brouncker and John Evelyn. The confusion in which public affairs were involved in the latter part of the year 1659, when Gresham College was turned into a barrack for soldiers, dispersed the philosophers; but “their meetings,” continues their historian, “were revived, and attended with a larger concourse of persons, eminent for their characters and learning, upon the Restoration, 1660; and, as appears from the journal book of the Royal Society, on the 28th of November that year, the Lord Viscount Brouncker, Mr. Boyle, Mr. Bruce, Sir Robert Moray, Sir Paul Neile, Dr. Wilkins, Dr. Goddard, Dr. Petty, Mr. Balle, Mr. Rooke, Mr. Wren, and Mr. Hill, after the lecture of Mr. Wren at Gresham College, withdrew for mutual conversation into Mr. Rooke's apartment, where, amongst other matters discoursed of, something was offered about a design of founding a college for the promoting of physico-mathematical experimental learning. And, because they had these frequent occasions of meeting with one another, it was proposed that some course might be thought of to improve this meeting to a more regular way of debating things; and that, according to the manner in other countries, where there were voluntary associations of men into academies for the advancement of various parts of learning, they might do something answerable here for the promoting of experimental philosophy.” It was thereupon agreed that the meetings should be continued at three o'clock in the afternoon on every Wednesday, in Mr. Rooke's chamber at Gresham College during term time, and at Mr. Balle's apartments in the Temple in the vacation. It was also arranged that every member of the society should pay ten shillings on his admission, and a shilling a week besides so long as he remained a member. At this meeting, which may be regarded as that at which the present Royal Society was actually founded, Dr. Wilkins presided. From the subsequent admissions it appears that only the twelve persons present on this occasion were considered as members; all others, even those who had

* Birch, i. 3.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »