Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

ESTABLISHMENT OF THE ROYAL observatory. 223

of Astronomer Royal (or Astronomical Observator, in the official style) bestowed upon John Flamsteed, then about thirty years of age, and already distinguished as a cultiwator of astronomical science. Flamsteed held this office till his death in 1719; and during that space of time made and published a voluminous series of observations, from the commencement of which his late biographer, Mr. Baily, dates the commencement of modern astronomy. “Nor,” observes another writer, to whose masterly contributions to the history of the mathematical sciences we have been repeatedly indebted in the preceding pages, “can such chronology be disputed, if we consider that we now return to Flamsteed's observations as the earliest with which it is desirable to compare those of our day, and also that Flamsteed's Catalogue is the first which attained a precision comparable to that of later times.” What is here alluded to is a catalogue of above *00 stars, “whose places,” as has been remarked, “were more accurate than any determined in the next *y years, and whose selection and nomenclature have *rved as basis to every catalogue since that time.”f A Portion of this Catalogue was first published, without Flamsteed's consent, in 1712, by a committee appointed by the government, of which Newton, Wren, and Gre80ry were members, and under the immediate superin

*ndence of Halley, by whose name the work, entitled

Historie Coelestis Libri Duo,' is commonly known. Flamsteed considered himself, and apparently with good

* Article on Flamsteed, in Penny Cyclopædia, x. 296. Article on Greenwich Observatory, in Penny CycloPodia, xi. 441.

[graphic][graphic][graphic]

reason, to have been very ill-used in this transaction;” and, having at last succeeded in recovering from the government all the copies of Halley's book that remained unsold, he committed them to the flames, with the exception of a portion of the sheets, out of which he formed part of the first volume of a new work, with the title of “Historia Coelestis Britannica,” the printing of which, however (in three volumes, folio), was not completed till 1725, six years after the author's death. It was carried through the press by his widow, with the aid of his assistants Mr. Crosthwait and Mr. Abraham Sharp, the latter of whom had attained great distinction as an accurate observer. This work is characterised by the writer of the article on Flamsteed in the Penny Cyclopaedia as occupying the same place in practical astronomy which the Principia of Newton holds in the theoretical part. It was to Flamsteed that Newton (who afterwards quarrelled with his old friend, and abused him in no measured terms, on the misunderstanding that arose about the first publication of his catalogue) was indebted for all the observations of the moon which he made use of in the illustration and verification of his lunar theory. “The first edition of Newton's Principia,” to quote again the publication just referred to, “had appeared shortly before Flamsteed had supplied himself with his best instruments; and at Newton's request many of Flamsteed's observations of the moon, reduced as well as was then practica

* See the particulars as for the first time brought to light by Mr. Francis Baily in his new edition of “The British Catalogue of Stars, corrected and enlarged, with an account of the life of Flamsteed prefixed. Lond. 1835.

ble, were communicated to him to aid in perfecting the theory deduced from the principle of universal gravitation. The time at which these observations were made was in fact a most critical one—when the most accurate observations that had been made were needed for the support of the most extensive philosophical theory that man had invented.”

MEDICAL SCIENCE AND NATURAL HISTORY.

In the English medical science of the latter part of the seventeenth century the most distinguished name is that of Dr. Thomas Sydenham (b. 1624, d. 1689). Discarding mere theory, Sydenham applied himself to the careful observation of nature and facts; and his practice and writings are considered as marking an era in the history of the healing art. After his time little innovation was made among British practitioners, either in the treatment or doctrine of diseases, till the era of Cullen and Brown in the middle of the succeeding century. Anatomical science from the middle of the seventeenth to the middle of the eighteenth century was prin

cipally advanced by Malpighi, Steno, Ruysch, Duverney,

Morgagni, Albinus, Haller, and other Italian, French, and German physicians; but some new facts were also

contributed by Humphrey Ridley, the author of a work

on the Brain, published in 1695; by William Cowper, whose Anatomical Tables, published in 1698, however, are asserted to have been stolen from the Dutch anatomist Bidloo; by the eldest Alexander Monro, the

* Article on Greenwich Observatory, in Penny Cyclopaedia, xi. 441.

author of the Osteology, first published in 1726, and the founder of the medical school of Edinburgh; and by the celebrated William Cheselden, author of the Osteography, published in 1733, and of various other works, and the most expert English operator of his day. To these names ought to be added that of Stephen Hales, whose ‘Vegetable Statics,’ published in 1727, and ‘Haemastatics,’ published in 1733, carried both vegetable and animal physiology considerably farther than any preceding work either English or foreign. Something was also done in the new sciences (if they were yet entitled to be so called) of zoology and comparative anatomy, by Nehemiah Grew, Edward Tyson, Samuel Collins, and other early members of the Royal Society. Grew is likewise one of the fathers of modern botany; but that science was indebted for altogether a new form to the famous John Ray, whose various works were published between 1670 and his death in 1705. “Botany,” says a late writer, in noticing the merits of Ray, “he found was fast settling back into the chaos of the middle ages, partly beneath the weight of undigested materials, but more from the want of some fixed principles by which the knowledge of the day should be methodised. Profiting by the discoveries of Grew and the other vegetable anatomists, to which he added a great store of original observations, he, in his ‘Historia Plantarum,' the first volume of which appeared in 1686, embodied in one connected series all the facts that had been collected concerning the structure and functions of plants: to these he added an exposition of what he considered the philosophy of classification, as indicated partly by human reason, and partly by experience; and from the whole he deduced a classification which is unquestionably the basis of that which, under the name of the system of Jussieu, is everywhere recognised at the present day.” Ray's views, however, were encountered even in his own day by the artificial system of the French botanist Tournefort; and before the middle of the next century the science was again revolutionised by the genius of the great Linnaeus. The Botanical, or Physic Garden, as it was called, at Oxford, we may here mention, had been founded and endowed by Henry Danvers, Earl of Danby, in 1632. Ornithology and ichthyology may almost be said to owe their beginning, at least in this country, to Ray's friend, Francis Willughby. Willughby died, at the age of thirty-seven, in 1672, but his works on these subjects—his ‘Ornithologiae Libri Tres,’ and his ‘Historia Piscium,’—were not published till some years after, under the superintendence of Ray; indeed, of the latter, which did not appear till 1686, Ray was half the author as well as the editor. A similar service was performed to conchology by the magnificent ‘Historia Conchyliorum’ of Dr. Martin Lister, the first part of which appeared in 1685, the fifth and last in 1693. Finally, in geology, while some progress was made in the collecting and even in the arranging of facts by Ray, Dr. John Woodward, and others, and a few elementary general principles or natural laws of the science were beginning to be perceived, a host of speculators, headed by the eloquent Thomas Burnet and the eccentric William Whiston, both men of genius and learning, but of more fancy than either judgment or knowledge of the subjects which in this instance they undertook to discuss, produced in the * Penny Cyclopaedia, v. 248.

« AnteriorContinuar »