Page images
PDF
EPUB

the original chaos, and much argumentation that follows touching the essential qualities and forms of things, may be passed over. But we may abridge a speculation about the phenomena of drowning, which occurs in one of the chapters.

The true reason, we are told, had never before been laid down by any, why “a man yet living, or any other creature when alive, is much heavier than when he is dead.” That such is the fact, in the first place, is assumed from a living man sinking at first when he falls into the water, and rising again to the top after he has been dead for some time. 6. The reason is,” proceeds our philosopher, “because, through the great heat which was inherent in that man, the heavy and terrestrial parts were the more detained from the centre; they, again, being thus detained, moved stronger towards the centre, and therefore make the body heavier during their violent detention, through the great heat which was in the said man when alive; so that, through this great weight, the alive body sinks down to the bottom. Now, when a man is suffocated, and the heat squeezed out of him by the thick compressing parts of the water, then he is rendered less heavy, and immediately leaves the inferior parts of water, as being less weighty than the said profound parts.” So that we see one principle of Dr. Gideon Harvey's philosophy is, that weight is partly occasioned by heat, that the same substance is heavier or lighter according as it is hotter or colder. The further explanation, in the like strain, of the reasons that nevertheless detain the body below for a considerable time after it may be supposed to have become as cold as the pressure of the water can well make it, need not be quoted at length:

there still remain, it seems, certain “airy and fiery parts,” after the vital flame has been extinguished, which it requires in most cases some days to overcome. A strong, compact, well-set man will be eight or nine days in ascending to the top, “because his heat was deeper, and in greater quantity impacted into his body”; and for the same reason, it is affirmed, such a man will sink sooner to the bottom, vanishing under water in the twinkling of an eye. “On the contrary,” continues our author, “ we hear how that weak and tender women have fallen into the river, and have swam upon the water until watermen have rowed to them, and have taken them up; and many weakly women, that were suspected to be witches, being cast into the water for a trial, have been wickedly and wrongfully adjudged to be witches because they were long in

[blocks in formation]

sinking; and, alas, it is natural: the reason was, because they were comparatively light; for their earthy parts were not so much detained, and consequently moved not so forcibly downwards.” “ No doubt,” it is added, with naïveté enough, “but their coats conduced also somewhat to it." “ Whence I collect,” concludes the demonstration, “ that an ordinary woman is almost one-third longer descending to the bottom, than an ordinary man, because a man, from being a third stronger (because he is a third heavier through the force of the light elements — but I mean not through fat or corpulency) than a woman, is conjectured to have one-third more heat than a woman.” 1 But, if a woman has less heat than a man, she is, in the worthy doctor's opinion, still more decidedly his inferior in other respects, what heat she has, it should seem, being, after all, too much for the weakness of her general organization. “ Women,” he afterwards observes, “ die faster, that is, thicker than men, and are more disposed to sickness than they, because their innate heat and air do effect greater alterations upon their bodies, as having but little earth or compressing density, in comparison to men, to resist the light elements and moderate their irruptions; and, therefore, women seldom reach to any equal or consistent temperature, but are always in changing, which in them after eighteen, twenty, or twenty-four years' expiration is particularly called breaking, because then they alter so fast that they swiftly put a period to their days; and that, because their bodies being lax and porous, their innate heat shoots through in particles, and not in minimas, without which there can be no durable temperature. Were their bodies heavier and denser, the minimas of earth would divide their heat into minimas, and reduce it to a temperature. If, then, their innate heat doth constantly cohere in particles, and is never directed into minimas, it retaining in that case stronger force than otherwise it could do in minimas, it alterates their bodies continually, and so they never attain to any consistency of age. Many sexagenarian widowers, or men of threescore years of

age,

do alter less and slower than most women do from their five-and-thirtieth year; wherefore they do rather covet a wife of twenty, because she will just last as long in her prime, or will be as fast in breaking, altering, and changing her temperament, form, and shape in one year as the old man shall alter or change in three or four years; and so they (the old man and his

1 Arch. Philos. Nova, Part ii. p. 106.

young wife] grow deformed in equal time. Wherefore a mian's consistent age may last out the beauties of two or three women, one after the other; and, because of this, some in their mirth have proclaimed a woman after her thirty-fifth year to be fitter for an hospital than to continue a wife. No wonder if a woman be more fierce, furious, and of a more rash, swift judgment than a man; for their spirits and heat, moving in great troops and confluences of particles, must needs move swift, which swiftness of motion is the cause of their sudden rages, nimble tongues, and rash wits, &c., &c.”] But our fair readers have probably had enough of this. From many other curious things in the multifarious miscellany, which comprises chemistry, botany, mineralogy, and other subjects besides those now usually included under the name of natural philosophy, we will transcribe a few sentences of what is laid down in various places on the matters that had most engaged the attention of inquirers for more than a century preceding the time of this writer, and in the elucidation of which the greatest progress had been made by Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and some of his own countrymen.

The “old fancy of Pythagoras, Plato, Aristarchus, Seleucus, Niceta, and others,” the making the earth revolve around the sun which had been in modern times revived by Copernicus, we have already seen that our author treats as a very absurd notion. 66 The earth is,” he says, “and must necessarily be, the centre of the world, or of all the other elements, within which it is contained like the yolk of an egg within the white and the shell. I prove the · proposition ; if the nature of earth be to move conically from the circumference to its own centre through a contiguous gravity, and the nature of air and fire be to be equally diffused from the centre through their levity, ergo, the earth must needs fall to the midst of them all, its parts tending circularly and conically to their centre. The earth being arrived to the centre, it resteth quiet and immovable.”2 As for the position that the sun is the centre of the system, besides that it is in manifest contradiction to the language of Scripture, it cannot be true, we are told, for this, among other reasons: — “ The sun is accounted by most, and proved by us, to be a fiery body, or a flame, and therefore is incapable of attaining to rest in a restless region, which, if it did, its flame would soon diminish through the continual rushing by of the fiery element, 1 Arch. Philos. Nova, Part ii. p. 134.

2 Ibid. p. 206.

testify.” 1

tearing its flames into a thousand parts, whose effects would certainly prove destructive to the whole universe, but especially to all living creatures.” “ The moon,” it is added, “ is liker (if any) to be the centre, it consisting by far of more earth than the sun, as her minority in body, motion, and degree of brightness do

Our author objects, moreover, to the motion assigned to the earth by the Copernican hypothesis on a variety of grounds. In particular, he argues, it is incredibly rapid for so large and heavy a body. Again, “ were the earth a planet or star," he observes, “it is supposed it should cast a light, which is repugnant to its nature, through which, as I have showed before, she is rendered dark, and is the cause of all darkness. Were this absurdity admitted, all our knowledge which hitherto wise men have so laboured to accomplish would be in vain ; for, as I said before, earth and earthy bodies must be light, fire and fiery bodies must be heavy, and enjoy their rest; water and waterish bodies must be likewise heavy; the air and airy bodies must be weighty, and enjoy their rest; all dark colours must be supposed light; all astronomical appearances, shadows; sounds, tastes, scents, and all mixed bodies must then be understood to be contrary to what really they are.” In fine, he concludes, after quoting some passages to show that Scripture likewise, as well as common sense, is plain against the earth’s motion, “what need there more words to confute so absurd an opinion ? " 2

In a subsequent chapter on the tides, he objects altogether to the imagination entertained by Descartes, of the sun and moon having anything to do with that phenomenon. “I deny,” he says, in the first place, “his supposition of the earth's motion, as being fabulous, which we have confuted elsewhere. He might as well assert that there be as many Neptunes under water moving it circularly, as Aristotle stated intelligences to move the heavens; for even this he might excuse by saying it was but an assumption to prove a phenomenon of the water. “Can any one rationally or probably conceive," 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, 1 Arch. Philos. Nova, Part ii. p. 208.

2 Ibid. p. 209.

His own

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 ? ... Such fancies are ridiculous, and not to be proposed by any philosopher.” 1 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.” 2 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.”3 In another chapter 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,” 4 (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

1 Arch. Philos. Nova, Part ii. p. 303.
3 Ibid. p. 306.

2 Ibid. p. 305.
4 Ibid. p. 417.

« PreviousContinue »